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Archive for June, 2009

weekend plans

Thursday night: hot caffeinated beverages w/ the Banker

(“Wait,” say the Readers. “Who?”)

Friday: lunch date w/ the Trader, evening poetry group

(“Noooooo!” says Jane. “Wait a minute, back up,” say the Readers. “The Banker? Wasn’t that…”)

Saturday: lunch date w/ … hmm, I have no nickname. A single dad who finds investment cash for eco-projects. Suggestions? Evening plans to be determined.

(“Hold on,” the Readers say. “This Banker business. You still haven’t said….” Jane shakes her head sadly.)

Sunday: dinner w/ a local mom-friend who I haven’t seen in ages.

Nice, busy weekend. Lots of plans. Hurray! Need to get some work done. Couple of pitches and follow-ups that need to be sent out now that the article is done (which looks, according to the editor, “great”).

So if there aren’t any questions?

(Readers hopping up and down. Maeve leaves, studiously oblivious.)

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On the way home, very late, from a friend’s house; listening to The Dear’s “Ticket to Immortality” play off the iPod on the car stereo. The chorus at the end comes on: “The world is really gonna love you, the world is really gonna love you.” I’m humming along. The song ends.

From the back, PP: It’s true.

Maeve: What’s true?

PP: The song. The world does love us, doesn’t it?

My heart melted, I beamed with pride. “Yes, yes it does.”

And Universe, I swear, if you ever make her change her mind on that, I’ll kill you.

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I think the Dude is Done.

At least, after a flurry of emails on Saturday, I haven’t heard from him this week. And it’s almost the weekend. But that’s ok, since first of all I only have Saturday night this weekend anyway and secondly I’ve been talking to a couple of other guys too.

(Note: this may be the most problematic aspect of online dating, this “unlimited variety” thing. You know how hard it is to buy a major appliance when you’re in a big box store with fifty different kinds? Exactly.)

One of them is a recently-divorced Trader (and I can already hear Jane going “noooooooo!”), and he seems clever and has a young son and we have some things in common but I am a little leery (see aforementioned “noooooooo!”). I’m not sure what the other two do. If any of them turn into dates of course they’ll be “packaged up” as the news industry says with their very own handles and hopefully a funny story or two.

In the meantime, my first PP-less weekend (3rd-5th) is filling up nicely. And the one after that too, by the looks of it. Which is good. The best part is that they’re filling up with friends, as opposed to when I first separated from the Ex and my weekends mostly filled up with dates. Dates are good! Not spurning dates. Still hoping for one of those whatchamacallit, “relationship” things to come along and stick around for a while. In the meantime it’s better not to make it the sole focus of my mental energies.

A random order jumble of other happenings:

1. Almost done that article that had been cancelled. First draft is about bang-on for word-length. I have a few bits to look up and fix but otherwise can submit it in plenty of time for the first-draft deadline. Yay me!

2. While looking for a solution for recording cell-phone interviews (which I found, after searching high and low all over the city and online, in the radio shack across the street from my office) I fell in love with the iPhone and now have a serious hankering for one. I’m trying to tell myself I can wait either for my next three-paycheck month or whenever the retroactive payments from our new contract come in.

3. Pondering the cost and storage of camping gear. I think PP would really like it. Pondering that I haven’t been camping since I was a teenager and my skills are a little rusty. As in, umm, campfire? Sticks and matches, right? Can’t I just bring a stove? Do I need to know how to build a campfire? Is it like riding a bicycle?

4. FaceBook! More details to come.

5. PP’s last day of kindergarten is today! I am in shock. I refuse to believe she’s old enough to be done with kindergarten. I keep telling her that it feels like I just brought her home from the hospital last week, and I can’t believe how grown-up she’s getting to be, which she evidently likes to hear because she keeps asking me, “Does it feel like you just brought me home from the hospital last week?” Then I say, “Yes! and you were just this tiny little baby and you couldn’t even move your own head! And now you’re graduating from kindergarten, my goodness!”

Next week we are on vacation together, which will include sleeping in, eating pancakes and frittatas for breakfast, mud, fireworks, staying up late, reading, sewing pajamas for various stuffed animals who apparently really really need pajamas, and various daytrips if the weather cooperates. So you may not hear from me again for a week or so.

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I read one of those “if you grew up with narcissistic parents” books on the weekend, and it was good and once again I felt like I were reading about my far-flung clone sisters, so reassuring in a way. The book made the point–as every book I’ve ever read about abusive parents of any sort has–that if you were not parented properly growing up, you need to learn how to parent yourself or you’re going to keep looking for other people to do it for you. And she’s right, goddammit, but I am so sick and tired of doing everything for myself (and PP too). Do I really have to parent myself too?

I know I do. I’m just sulking.

I am trying to steel myself up for summer vacation.

I know one of my readers is feeling the same way, but for very different reasons!

Summer means PP is with her dad alternating weeks, which means she is not at home alternating weeks, which means I miss her like crazy–long weekends are bad enough, whole weeks are a killer. Last summer wasn’t too bad because the Starving Artist was around and kept me distracted. This summer, I am single.

I need to come up with a way of keeping myself productive and focused, because while technically a week to myself sounds like a great way to get things done, in practice it often turns into me feeling too sad and missing PP too much to do anything except mope. So I’m making a list of classes and workshops and events and projects that might keep me from losing my mind this summer. (Any local suggestions welcome!) I have a couple of craft shops on the list–sadly all of their classes and workshops are offerred when PP is with me. I want to check out city stuff, maybe library stuff though my luck finding something useful/interesting has been low. Volunteer gigs, whenever possible. Writing associations–there’s a couple I try to keep my fingers in. Free movie nights downtown. Seeing friends, of course.

There’s so much I’d like to do around the apartment and for my writing over the summer, but I know if I’m not actively working to avoid it I’ll get nothing done because I’ll just sit around feeling sorry for myself instead. And yes, there will probably be dates in there, but I’m not going to plan on it. One per month! Just like before.

I will have PP from yesterday until Saturday morning, then she’ll spend one night w/ her dad (her cousins will be visiting) and then back with me until the next Thursady, so almost 12 days straight. There was a time I would have been panicking (OMG on my own w/ PP for 12 days I can’t cope!), but now I’m so looking forward to it, and plan to stock up on lots of good times (especially next week, which we both have off) to make the week after easier to take.

It’s funny how the single-mom part gets easier, as in I no longer feel so stressed and exhausted by the demands of it, though I know they’re the same or even tougher, but having her away from home just never gets easier at all.

There’s a lot more that I’m thinking about pre-summer holiday–mostly about ‘filling the mirror’ and other narcissism-related joys as they relate to the dreaded Free Time Overload–but right now it’s too formless even for the blog. And that’s saying something.

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tea

Tea turned into drinks at an oyster bar downtown which turned into a walk around the block which turned into me getting home at midnight so, yeah. Tea went well.

I’m still delivering angry monologues at the RG in my head, but after having delivered many angry monologues in person to living narcissists of various descriptions, I know better than to expect that it would end with any recognition of assholery committed or innocents wronged. So the monologues will stay in my head.

(Case in point from real conversation w/ RG:

Maeve: I wish you’d told me about your doubts before you met PP, though.

RG: I did! I told you I wanted to still take things slowly.

Maeve: What you told me was that you didn’t want me rushing into thinking we were moving in together. What you did not tell me was that you didn’t think this was going anywhere two weeks ago, and I wish you had told me before you met PP, as I would not have introduced you.

RG: Whatever.)

(sigh)

Anyway. I need a nickname. I’d use the Engineer but there’s already an Engineer here. He’s got a soft spot for the Big Liebowski (do I need to be worried? I’ve never seen it) so maybe I’ll call him the Dude (I may not have seen it, but I’m not totally ignorant). Quite laid-back, seems very open-minded, and easy to talk to, which I think was the nicest thing. Gets along well with his parents, or seems to, and has had long-term live-in relationships. Is diabetic. What a weird coincidence–neither of us knew beforehand. We spent quite some time talking about shots and insulins and the pros and cons of pumps and how freaking expensive it is.

The only thing I’m not happy about is something I did; we were talking about previous relationships a bit and he asked me if I’d married the guy I was involved with in university and I said NO because I didn’t want to seem like a flake with multiple marriages on the first date, which was probably not a good thing to do, but I’m telling myself it was a first date and I don’t owe full-disclosure on the first date (but it is something I’d have to clear up if it looked like things were going somewhere, and argh, I hate that part).

No major fireworks, but honestly? I think at this point we can safely conclude that for Maeve, major fireworks are a BAD SIGN. They mean: Hey! Here is someone who is going to treat you badly! Another chance to relive your childhood and bask in the glow of constant rejection and self-doubt. What fun!

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If you can believe it, there is actually an entire cottage industry surrounding being the daughter of a narcissistic mother.

The good news is that I am not crazy. If anything it is shocking how completely normal I am. Everything I took as evidence of my fucked-up-ness–the multiple marriages, crippling self-doubt, inability to trust my ability to mother, inability to take a compliment, perfectionism, difficulty speaking or self-disclosing–is 100% typical for the daughter of a narcissistic mother. It’s absolutely shocking. For the first time in my life I feel like I’m in an echo chamber.

The bad news is that so many of them seem to struggle for so long to make any progress, and that for most real progress essentially meant severing their ties to their families of origin.

I just want this to be over already. I want to be better, I want to move forward, I want to go on. And maybe I can’t. And that sucks. I don’t want this mess of scars to be all that I am and all that I can do.

I recently finished Curious?, a book about how curiosity enhances our lives and our mental health, and it was very cool and really interesting if you’re looking for a book to read. One of the analogies he used that stuck with me was to say that, if you imagine that anxiety and curiosity are dials on a stereo, that most people put most of their attention into getting the anxiety dial at the right level and ignore the curiosity dial, and that that’s backwards–that you really have very little control over how anxious you feel and focusing on it only makes you feel worse about it, not to mention that you end up avoiding doing the things you want or need to do because you’re afraid of how anxious you’ll feel about it. So he recommends basically ignoring the anxiety dial and just focusing on curiosity.

And he’s not just a self-righteous putz, either, as his father abandoned his family at a young age and his mother died when he was a pre-teen. So it’s not like he’s coasted through life on a river of privilege, and is now doling out advice from the top of the mountain.

But I’m trying to apply this analogy to this sphere, and wondering if it will work.

I mean, I already basically ignore the anxiety dial in most things. Rejection makes me anxious, I still write although I know it will bring plenty of rejection. Meeting new people makes me anxious, but I still go out on dates with strangers because I want a relationship (and that works rejection into the bargain too). And I still volunteer with new groups because I want to be contributing to the world and all that good stuff. So I’m good at ignoring anxiety and going after curiosity.

But I think there is another dial labelled ‘recovery,’ and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life ignoring what I want to actually do in order to get to some mythical state of healthy, either. I mean, healthy’s not mythical, but I have no idea what that might look like for me because my parents have always been there. I don’t know who I would have been without them (though now thanks to finding those online groups I have a pretty good idea of which of my traits can be laid at their feet). It’s not like I was the victim of a single traumatic act, and can recall who I was beforehand. Who was I as a fetus? It’s a meaningless question.

I don’t want to ignore recovery–I want to be able to pay it enough attention to know when my issues are getting in the way. But I want to focus mostly on where I want to go and who I want to be. I worry about getting the balance right.

~~~~~

In other, lighter news, and only tangentially related, I have a date tonight. An Engineer, but not The Engineer; bit older than I am, never married but has had long-term relationships, funny; we’ve chatted on the phone twice this week and will be meeting for coffee this evening. As you might imagine my faith in my ability to pick good dates has been somewhat eroded this week even though, yes, the trajectory of the relationship with the RG suggests some progress. I know. Still.

So we are meeting for coffee. I will drink tea. And my expectations are very, very low.

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So sometime yesterday afternoon it finally occurred to me that my mother is a narcissist.

(“And?” you ask.)

I know. Wow, 34 years. Yup, she’s nuts all right, in exactly the same way as all the nuts I keep falling for.

She’s a narcissist!

I mean, I knew she was crazy. I knew that if I locked her in a room with a psychiatrist and refused to let her out until she started speaking that she’d come out diagnosed with one personality disorder or another. But narcissism never occured to me because her self-loathing was so pathetically, patently obvious. She papered it up well, but it was there leaking through all the time. So I thought–maybe schizoid personality disorder. I mean, this is a woman nearing sixty who has never, to my knowledge, had a friend.

So maybe both.

I thought–you know, narcissists, the image of the beautiful charmers, the vivacious ones at the centre of an adoring crowd. But no adoring crowd is good enough for my mother, and in her mind the reason she does not have an adoring crowd is because she is too perfect for other people and they are intimidated by her.

Once I let go of the idea that my mother-the-narcissist had to be like my lovers-the-narcissists, the ones who could charm their way into a thousand knickers, the extroverts who talk big about themselves and talk smack about the rest of the world, and looked past the Wall of Silence into her actual behaviour, there it was.

Narcissism.

Ignoring my needs to address her own wants. Punishing me for not taking care of her. Threatening to get rid of me because I was only a straight-A student, volunteer, part-time worker, etc., and didn’t also enjoy vacuuming. Blaming me for her marital problems and her depression. Always disapproving of anything that wasn’t like her, or her values. The constant shopping, the entire bedrooms full of her clothes and shoes and makeup at their current house. The bizarrely fancy kitchen and renovations. Taking a course in landscape architecture to start her own business and then refusing to market herself, just sitting back and waiting for business to materialize. Forgetting her abusive behaviour, and justifying what she remembers with “you deserved it.” Never, ever, apologizing. Telling me that my diabetes was no worse than her being on a diet. Being generous with gifts (although never bothering to find out what I actually wanted) while refusing to buy necessities the rest of the year. Eating moldy food in a beautifully-decorated 3200 square foot house because she’d rather buy herself shoes. Spending my teen years sitting in her bedroom in the dark watching television and eating diet junk food, while occasionally flying into rages about how hard she worked and how no one ever helped her. Cutting me off when I told her I was getting divorced.

She’s a NARCISSIST.

Which means she won’t ever change, because to change she’d have to admit that there was something about herself that needs changing and that means admitting she’s not already perfect, which she can’t do. And I already knew that, but the narcissism is the final nail in the coffin.

It’s like all these jagged-edged memories that have been jumbling around in my head for the last few decades just bounced the right way yesterday afternoon and fell into place and formed the right picture. My mother is a raging narcissist. My father, who has his own flaws to be sure, largely exists to protect her from herself, and be punished whenever her life isn’t as she thinks it should be. I am the scapegoat.

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