Thursday, January 5, 2012

Home Is Where The Heart Is

When I made the comment to my husband on Christmas that, "I can't believe that anyone would be willing to give [our family] up," I wasn't considering one very major character flaw that can be attributed to all narcissists: they reject happiness. By their very natures, they repel it. Whether it's the potential for their own, or someone else's, they downright refuse every part of it.

I've been thinking a lot about happiness recently - How we can achieve it, the trials and tribulations we all face on the way there, and how happiness can never be found in that which is not genuine. There is no happiness in a facade. Much as narcissists walk around pretending that the sun shines out of their asses, the real truth is that they are not happy. I don't even really believe that they are happy when they have a thousand minions at their disposal, a hundred victims to control, or every last drop of their narcissistic supply fulfilled.

I'm not one to rejoice in someone else's misfortune, but when I hear unfortunate news about those who have tried so very hard to hurt me and who have succeeded in hurting those I love, it is very hard for me to feel pity. I recognize that NMIL must have a hurt and withered inner child that has been left neglected all these years. I also realize that in order to become the monster that she is, she had to have suffered at the hands of one or several abusers herself.

But, the difference between someone like her and someone like my husband lies in the choices they made with their own free will. Where NMIL became bitter, empty, and fake, my husband seeks to rebuild, renew, and be genuine. Where NMIL seeks to fill her emptiness with the pain and suffering of others, my husband fills his with kindness and compassion. Where NMIL was weak, my husband was strong.

I believe in the philosophies of karma; what goes around comes around; and in the idea that what comes to us in life is a direct result of what we send out. In other words, we get what we are looking for, we receive what we expect. If we don't value ourselves, if we attempt to seek happiness by destroying others, if we force ourselves to live in darkness rather than in light, in a facade rather than in truth, then the outcome of our lives is exactly what we've made it: sad, dark, shadows, a shallow grave.

When I hear that bad things have happened in a narcissist's life, I tend to think about those events in a pragmatic way: those things don't just happen - the narcissist made them happen. Or, at the very least, the narcissist did nothing to prevent them from happening, instead being too blinded by their games of power and control to see the devastation coming their way. The narcissists' game must be a tiring one: they desire happiness but have no means to access it, because it is their very natures that repel it. I know that people have different motivations and that there is more than one path that can lead to happiness, but I also know that on a basic level, there are only a few things required for true happiness to exist.

Money is honestly not one of them. It's true, money doesn't buy happiness and poverty doesn't buy anything, but our ability to surround ourselves with possessions of great material value is not a measure for happiness. Today, I was thinking back to the first (and only) time we visited NMIL in the mini-mansion she bought in early 2010. I was thinking about it because I saw her house as being a reflection of her: it was cavernous and cold. It was much too large to contain the being who dwelled inside. And it was just a house, not a home. There was no love in that house, no matter how much money she spent on frilly decorations. There was no character in it, no matter the fancy fireplace and great entry hall. Today, I found myself wondering if it is as empty today as it was when we saw it over a year ago. I'd bet my bottom dollar that it is.

In contrast, I see the home I share with my husband as also being a reflection. Of us. It's a modest home, with just enough square footage to suit our needs. When I first saw the house, I fell in love with it, warts and all.

And believe me, it had a lot of warts. It had been neglected for years by the man who owned it. It needed lots of cleaning and even more paint. The first time we saw the kitchen, there was a pipe that had burst and was leaking water all over the kitchen floor, which the owner hadn't bothered to even mop up. The walls were dirty from where the furnace had once backfired and left traces of soot in every corner. The bathrooms were disgusting. But I was still charmed. I stood on the sidewalk in front of the house before we even walked inside and whispered to my husband excitedly, "I want it." It was only the third house we looked at.

I could see past all of it's flaws, into the soul of it. When we walked through the front door, the dark seventies paneling and rugs covered in twenty years of dirt didn't bother me. I could see all of that, but I could also see where I was going to put my Christmas tree. I could see the potential. I could see where I would put my decorations, and our furniture. I loved the original moulding, even though it had been painted many times over the years. I adored the original glass doorknobs on the solid wood doors upstairs.

Would DH and I love to have more money so that we could fix things up faster and have "nicer" belongings? Of course! Who doesn't? But the difference I see is that, even if we'd had the money to buy a house like the one NMIL bought in 2010, even if we'd bought that exact same house, it would feel a thousand times different, a thousand times better than it felt to be in the house that she owned.

I remember being upset with DH after we visited his NM because he had seemed so impressed by her house while we were there. When we walked in, he seemed attracted to the superficiality of it, exclaiming, "Whoa, Jonsi, can we live in a house like this someday?" I told him, "Sure, if you like walking into a house where your voice echoes." Then I looked at him and said, "I love our house." I love that our house has character and warmth. I love that we've put so much work into it and that it has a story. I love that we're raising our beautiful children in it and that all sorts of memories are being made. I told DH all of this after we left her house, adding that it had hurt my feelings that he made such comments because I felt that he was blinded by her and her superficial charm, and that it felt like he wasn't happy with our own much smaller, much less fancy house. Where I had been disgusted by NMIL's abode, DH had entertained brief fantasies of living in one just like it. It was a topic we discussed at length many times after that visit.

Whenever we do major construction in the house, something we've been doing a lot of since we moved in, I make time capsules and leave them in the walls, under the floorboards, behind the stairwells. In them, I put pictures of us and our children. I leave notes talking about what is going on in our lives, how many children we have, and what kind of work we've been doing on the house. I've left some of the children's special things - one of DD's plastic bracelets, a toy car, a penny from the current year. In the attic, I have plans to pry up one of the loose floorboards and leave a box containing several of my own treasures: my dried wedding bouquet, pictures of DH and I, and other odds and ends that have held meaning for me. I see this house as being a time capsule itself, and we'll leave bits of ourselves behind for the next generation and it's future owners. For however long our house stands, I hope that at least part of our presence remains.

So what happens when you have no real presence? What happens when you can't possibly fill up your environment with love because you have no real love to offer, and you surround yourself with people who are too selfish to offer theirs? What happens when every choice you make is one that is carefully planned so that YOU are the only beneficiary?

You wind up like NMIL: forever alone, forever fraudulent, forever empty. No matter how many houses she owns, no matter how many times she marries and divorces, no matter how many flying monkeys she has in her control, she is the master of her own destiny and from where I'm sitting, hers ain't a happy one. Oh, I'm sure she'll put on a pretty face until the bitter end, but I believe in my heart that she'll never match us in terms of happiness. I can't say there isn't a feeling of satisfaction in that thought for me: that the person who hurt my husband so very much and for so long, is getting exactly what she's asked for, perhaps what she deserves.

I know that DH and I will face times where we're down on our luck. We'll have trouble with our children, we'll suffer heartaches. But what we'll always have that NMIL won't, is each other. We will make it through the tough times and still have the same love and respect for each other that we've always had. We'll continue to work at our relationship with each other and with each of our children. We'll continue to discover how to love stronger, love deeper, love better. NMIL can't see us because she lacks the capacity for love altogether. And where there is no love, there can be no happiness.

7 comments:

  1. Yeah, very true.

    Sometimes when people talk about bad people, I hear them talk about them going to hell or God punishing them or God will take care of things or that they'll get what's coming to them when "bad things" happen like them losing their job or something. But I never really believed that, whether it means they're going to get what's coming to them or that it's all in God's/karma's hands. I don't think they're going to get what's coming to them.
    I think what they have now, somewhere in the scheme of things, a shitty stupid life is punishment enough. I think the fact that they can't be anyone else is punishment and that's what gives me satisfaction. They're the ones who can't see. They really are destroying each other and themselves and they are, like you've said, empty. They have nothing. I'm just glad I can be me and don't have to be shitty bitches like them.

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  2. I can't begin to itemize the cool things in this post. If I had to pick one it would be your placing of time capsules in strategic places for others to find later.
    Proof yet again narcissists can't kill our spirit, and one more thing a narcissist would never understand.

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  3. I love those images of the cavernous house as metaphor, thanks.

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  4. Lisa - "I don't think they're going to get what's coming to them. I think what they have now, somewhere in the scheme of things, a shitty stupid life is punishment enough." That's exactly what I was thinking, though I don't know if I conveyed it well enough. I think for the narcissists, it won't really matter how their life "ends," or what state they are in when it does...what really matters is that when you look at their life as a whole...it is quite the dismal picture.

    Q - I owe the time capsule idea to my mother, who has done the same in all of her homes through-out the years. Further proof that it's not only the bad legacies that are passed along to future generations!

    Evan - You're welcome. A cavernous house and a narcissist: I see each as being a metaphor for the other.

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  5. I took a real estate class, once, and the advice was to buy a house, and then make it your dream home. I admit that I, too, and awed by wide open spaces in homes, but then I think about the work that would have to go into cleaning it. I'm dreaming of a little two bedroom, someday, maybe three, but not big. I'd rather have more property and less house, so there's room for dogs and maybe a couple of horses. I actually love the house I grew up in, but I always felt like it missed out on having all the love within it that it should have, could have, if NM and EF had been willing to face the ugly truths and chosen to do the hard work to become healthy.

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  6. Judy - That was great advice! And your last point is exactly what I was thinking - a Narc can own a lovely home, and be surrounded by lots of pretty things but it can still feel completely "empty" when you walk inside.

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  7. I LOVE so much that you put the little time capsules in your house. Such a wonderful idea.

    It's funny, I again find myself surprised (sort of) that I stumbled upon your particular blog today. Your interaction with DH when he entered his mom's home reminds me somewhat of my own DH. He was talking to me last night about a windfall that his parents might come into and it all left me cold (and a bit bitter). Not jealous. I guess I just saw that if they had more money, that frees them up to bother us more. If they have more money, they'll be hanging out little carrots to bait us with. If they have more money, it'll be all about what they think they can create to buttress their image of wonderful, generous parents. His parents have spent many an afternoon telling us what we will inherit, what they are going to "do for us". Do you think they've talked WITH us about this? Nope. Just what they will do to make us feel grateful to them. I'd rather be poverty stricken than to be indebted to them like slaves.

    Also, I've been defending DH and myself a lot lately as we work on our home. We built a new home two years ago (worked REALLY hard, saved, and spent a lot of time to realize a dream). Nothing fancy, but something that fit us perfectly. So many people criticized us for "not living life" and "working too hard" on our home. Your refrence to building the stories that went with our home spoke to what I feel so perfectly. I love thinking that every detail in my home was picked by me (not in a superficial, tacky way but in a "what do we want for our family" way). I love watching the trees and plants that WE planted as a family grow and blossom. The garden stairs, the garden beds, the food we raise from scratch. The spot we picked for our Christmas tree and the bedroom we built for the baby we hoped to have. That every bit of space has a story and a memory. I love that. Thank you for that.
    Narcs will never know that. They rip out and build over whatever doesn't suit them, memories and love be damned.

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