Archive for the ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ Category

I think I need to break up with my mother.

Except that I can’t seem to screw up the courage I need to get it done. I’ve been thinking it over since xmas, and keep telling myself, ‘well, you don’t want to be hasty. Think about it a little more.’ I’ve been having nightmares about her almost every night, awful ones where I face her down and scream at her every evil thing I’ve ever thought about her and never said, in an effort to keep the peace.

I’ll back up:

Over xmas there was a terrible storm and an extended power outage at my parents’ house, almost a full week. Being a nice person, I called my parents every day to extend an invitation to them to come over, warm up, have tea, a shower, laundry, a nap–whatever they needed. They refused in the main, of course, because my mother “didn’t want to leave the dogs at home alone,” but for three days running they did come over for short periods. The power outage extended over Christmas and I offered to move the family celebration to our house, which they didn’t decide on until xmas day, when all the stores were closed, making it tricky to get groceries (particularly since my dad’s gone gluten-free for health reasons and my mom’s gone vegan for vanity). But we got a dinner up for boxing day, and my brother and his family stayed the night in something approaching warmth.

Now my mother’s new veganism is absolutely obnoxious. She’s acting like a spoiled college student about the whole thing. She’s strident, preachy, and will not shut up about it. The entire three days she came over, it was all she talked about. The chickens she’s sponsoring on a farm refuge. The donkeys. How my daughter should not grow up to be a dog breeder or a farmer (her fondest dreams at the moment, but recall that she’s *ten*) because it’s so horrible and it should be illegal but she could have a wildlife refuge instead. Meanwhile, I was sick, and so was my daughter, but I held my tongue all through until the boxing day dinner.

And at that boxing day dinner, I did something truly unforgiveable: I disagreed with my mother about veganism.

I had a tone, I’m sure, but I didn’t attack her at all. When she said that we are obviously not meant to be carnivores because we don’t have fangs or sharp claws, I said that we should move out of our houses, then, since we can’t build them with our fingernails either. She went on about the teeth again, and I said that while we didn’t have carnivore teeth, we did have omnivore teeth, since herbivores all have gaps between front teeth and back teeth–no middle teeth. Then she said that while we MAY be biologically suited to eat meat, “unlike animals,” humans have compassion and so she chooses not to.

“Just because I eat meat does not mean I lack compassion,” I said.

And she smirked at me, shrugged, and hasn’t said a word to me since.

Keep in mind that she’d just brought over several pounts of frozen meat from 2005-2010 that was no longer good enough for her to eat, but was apparently good enough for me–only if I ate it, I suppose, I would have been admitting to be a bad person without compassion. What a bitch.

A silence of 6 weeks would not be exceptional with her in any case, but this included her own birthday and my daughter’s birthday; at my daughter’s birthday dinner she completely ignored me for the entire evening, and when I gave my mother her birthday present with a “Happy birthday, mom!” she took it, mumbled at her dinner plate, shoved it under the table without opening it, and hasn’t said a word about it. So far as I know, she threw it away unopened. I mean I really have no idea.

The whole thing has wiped away any lingering doubts I had about my mother’s narcissism. Who but a narcissist would decide that someone’s disagreement about dietary choices constituted an attack and a betrayal that deserves punishment and ostracism?

I was angry with her, of course, but I’m furious with myself. HOW could I have let my guard down enough to give her the opportunity to hurt me again? When has she ever showed, in words or actions, that she cares about me at all? Why would I love her? What has she ever done to deserve it? Why should she be entitled to a relationship with me regardless of her behaviour?

I can’t see how I can have a relationship with her going forward, and what’s more, I don’t want to. If she wants to alienate all of her relatives and die in a cold dark room covered in dog shit, let her. (More on the relatives in a bit.)

Of course, this means my daughter also loses her. Not that she’s much of a grandmother–she shows up on special occasions with mediocre presents, but otherwise is not an active figure in her life, and by her choice since it would mean “leaving the dogs at home alone”–but still. We’d also both likely lose my dad, since he goes along with anything she says or wants (unless she’s sulking and ignoring him, at which point I am expected to listen to his endless complaints about it–but I can’t complain to him about her, oh no, she’s been a paragon of a mother). Which means no nearby biological family for her. And how would I explain this to her? “Your grandma is punishing me for disagreeing with her about veganism, so I’m sorry but we can’t visit with them for a good long time? Or maybe ever?”

Over the past few months I have been, very slowly and somewhat painfully, reestablishing contact with my mom’s estranged sisters. Once of them she hasn’t spoken to in decades, since they had a disagreement when I was a teenager. The other she hasn’t spoken to in years, though I don’t know why or precisely when. In both cases, losing the aunts meant losing the uncles and cousins as well, who I’d been close to growing up and lost without ever knowing why. One of my cousins got married last year and invited my mom and I to the shower, but my mother never passed the invitation along and I only found out (from my cousin directly) when it was too late to arrange to attend. PP and I went out for dinner with them last fall, and it was lovely–and also awkward, as they both were so warm and had so many nice things to say about me and PP that I was quite discomfited. I’m not used to that kind of approval and handled it very badly. But in either case, I had the kind of conversation with them that it has always been impossible to have with my parents. Just fun and casual. And my mother’s other sister, whose birthday is close to mine, reacted to our new conversations by sending me a ring my grandmother had given her; it’s the only thing I own from that grandmother.

In both cases I now talk to both of them more in a month than I ever spoke to my mother in a year. And with more warmth. But in all of those conversations, no one mentions my mother; she hangs like a spectre over every word, the bright pink elephant in the room. Every time it reminds me of how I used to fantasize when I was young that my mother and father would die, and one of these two families would adopt me. I shrugged that off as a normal childhood fantasy, but maybe it was more prescient than I gave myself credit for.

My mother is running out of relatives. Out of all of her siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews, and immediate family, I believe she is only in contact with my dad, my brother, and her own brother. Everyone else has done something to betray her and is no longer welcome in her life. Even my brother, who she always petted, knows she is a lunatic.

So I can’t see any way out of breaking up with my mother, which I am ready for at last. But I worry about how it will affect PP, and I don’t know how to do it.


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1. Time Trade

Maeve: I’ve offered you a trade of 7 hours for 20. I think this is best for PP and accommodates our positions as well. I’ve tried and I can’t understand your points about driving, quality time and my strict insistence on time-for-time. However, this needs to be addressed soon so my office can make plans that either do or don’t include PP. My original offer stands. Please inform me if you will accept or decline within the next two days.

Ex: Well, I didn’t know that when you said it was a trade, that you meant it was a trade. That changes everything. Also the misunderstanding is all your fault because your email was too long for me to correctly identify the repeated use of the word “trade.” I accept.

Maeve: Thank you.


2. Work

Hi Maeve. We know you’ve had way too much to do for the last ten months so we’re going to hire another PM who will eventually take over some of your projects. In the meantime, here’s two more!

(I’m now managing twelve. The other existing PM is managing four.)


3. Housework

The cleaners came for the first time yesterday. I went home, and the common areas were all so clean. It was wonderful. And I didn’t have to do it!

I’d love to say I did something high-minded and elevating with the time I saved, but I didn’t. I surfed the web, talked to Frances, and reread a relationship self-help book.

4. Dating

Why is it I can never manage the guilt of dating more than one person at a time?

Why should there even be any guilt?

Date with Marvin didn’t happen, but that’s because of a headache and exhaustion, not guilt. No dates this weekend–PP is with me for Easter. Next weekend, I know Hike wants to see me, and I also have an offer from a guy in the City who as of yet does not have a nickname. (Haven’t heard from Marvin since Sunday. Somewhat disappointed but not crushed. He does live a long ways away and maybe it would be best to let it drop?) Other offers piling up–my dance card is full. More than full.

I think what I need is a Green Flags list. Something that not only reminds me of what to avoid, but what to actively look for and expect.

Mostly it’s a logistical thing, I think. I need a night to myself every week, which leaves only one night for dating, which I can only divide so many ways. Hike would very obviously like to have all of my free time for himself, which is sweet and flattering, but I can’t help but feel that I’m just not ready to be right back in a relationship yet. I’d need to know him a bit better.

Anyway, the logistical thing: I can go on maximum two dates per week. But I shouldn’t plan on doing that every weekend or I’ll never get any rest time. The idea of dating is not to burn myself out in an effort to accommodate as many guys as possible.

It’s the accommodation thing. I feel like I should be saying yes unless there’s an obvious reason to say no but at the same time I should be saying no because Hike would like me to, though he hasn’t said so explicitly. It’s nuts.

Before you say anything, I know that the point is to do what will make me happy, not what will make other people who in many cases I haven’t even met yet happy, but it’s a hard habit to break and it feels uncomfortable.

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Paraphrase of recent email exchange relating to invitations for PP:

Ex: I’d like to have PP over an extra day on x weekend to celebrate her step-brother’s birthday.

Maeve: Mmmm, no, not unless you can propose a trade.

Ex: ok.

[time passes]

Maeve: PP has been invited to join me at a family event for my workplace on y. If you’d like, we can trade x for y. Since x=20 hours and y=5, maybe you could bring her back closer to 11, and then y=7. Let me know if that works for you.

[a week passes]

Ex: Lice! Horrible woman! Terrible mother! Slovenly housekeeper! Argh!

Maeve: Interesting! Please get back to me on the x for y trade.

[a week passes]

Ex: Well gosh, I wanted to reply earlier, but you’re just being so unreasonable and you don’t see my point of view. I know that x=20 hours and y=7, but the fact that you insist on a trade where I gain only 13 hours is just so totally unfair. How am I going to make up the 7 hours I lose that weekend?

Maeve: [bangs head on desk, indulges in fantasy where Ex is forced to get a psychiatric assessment]

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Maeve: I just thought I’d be dealing with these kinds of conversations when she’s 15, not when she’s 7.

Trader: By the time she’s fifteen she’ll be telling you that you’re a dork and she’s embarassed by you and she wants you to leave her alone.

M: Hmm … did you ever tell that to your parents?

T: Sure.


M: Really?

T: Yeah. When we had fights. Didn’t you?


M: No. I was too afraid they’d kick me out of the house. I’d never dare say anything like that to them.

T: Really? They threatened to kick you out of the house?

M: Sure. I grew up hearing that they were going to get rid of me as soon as I turned sixteen.

[Long digression while Trader told me about every kid he knew in highschool who’d been kicked out on their sixteenth birthday, and why he thought that was appalling, and about a cop he interviewed once who said he’d beat his son if he ever tried drugs. He does that–long tangential digressions, I mean, while an original idea follows every related neuron until he runs out of things to say.]

M: Why are we talking about this?

T: Oh. Umm. I … don’t know.

M: [sigh]


M: So really … you were allowed to talk like that to your parents?

T: Yeah. Well, no, I wasn’t, but I did. You know how it is.

M: No. I don’t. I would never have dared to do that. I was too scared.

T: Really? Even now, as an adult? Would you talk to them that?

M: No.

[Thinking: Despite all the craziness and criticism from your parents and the moving-around and immigrating, right now I am so envious that you could be angry at your parents and tell them so and not worry about not having a roof to sleep under that night.]

I don’t know why it never registered before that some people actually do say those things out loud to their parents without catastrophic consequences, but it never did. I always figured that people said that to their friends, I guess, but never to their parents’ faces. Another thing I always thought was normal flipped upside down. The walking on eggshells–the constant fear of being thrown away.


M: So you know how when we watched Only the Lonely, you said the Mom in that movie was like your mother?

T: Un huh.

M: OK. So the Other Mother in this movie reminds me of my Mom.

[Put on Coraline. Scary scenes ensue. Watch the part where Coraline says “no” and the Other Mother turns into a monster, grabs her daughter by the shoulders, shoves her behind the mirror and tells her she can come out when she’s ready to “be a loving daughter.”]

T: She reminds you of your mother?

M: Yep.

T: That’s harsh. But … I wasn’t there.


Also: we looked at houses today.

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PP’s birthday party was so amazing. Almost everyone came, and the people who came all RSVPed (hurray!). The party room at the Craft Store wasn’t the prettiest ever, but they had PP’s name in the front window of the store, and we dressed the room up with balloons (after threatening to do nothing, of course the Ex brought balloons too–thus proving that “I just want the time and location!” actually meant “I am going to do whatever I can to piss you off in advance and then act like a decent person when people are watching”–putz. He also agreed to order a pizza for delivery, at the party while people were watching.)

All the girls diligently worked away at their jewelery boxes with paint and stickers. It was fun to watch how their personalities came out in their creative process–M spending the entire hour making sure the top of the box was perfectly covered and even, J adding free-form wiggles and curves, L painting her name on the top, G making nice even stripes, and PP just experimenting and adding stuff until it was packed. Then pizza, snacks, a chocolate birthday cake, and presents. Presents from friends who are either just like her or really know her, because everything was something she would have loved to buy herself and will really enjoy playing with. Then everyone grabbed a fistful of balloons and a loot bag (silly bandz, notebooks, magnets, buttons) and gave PP a big hug and went home.

PP’s reading buddy, a grade 5 basketball player and sweet girl also named Maeve, came too and was a really good sport about hanging out with a bunch of little kids for a few hours. It was great. We had such a good time–it cost a small fortune once all the craft supplies are factored in but PP was so happy.  The lady hosting the party was lovely, warm and friendly and gracious and very well-organized. I got some great shots. Expect them on FB soon.

And PP’s father came to sit on a chair in the corner and text his fiancee for almost the whole 2 hours. The girls would be racing by around him, laughing and playing tag and telling silly jokes and he’d just sit there silently pounding away with his thumbs on his BB.

The Trader asked, Why bother coming?

To prove I can’t stop him, I said.

We picked up a tree on the way home–a real one this year, a lovely pine that you can smell through the whole house. It’s my first real tree in probably twenty years. I’ve got almost all the lights on, but should probably pick up some more garlands. The poinsettas, wreath, evergreen bouquets and outdoor lights are all out (the latter thanks to the Trader, who despite his fear of heights insisted on climbing the ladder to clip them to our very peaked roof). The santas and snowmen are out. The special mugs are out. Just a few weeks left until Christmas.

I can’t wait. Also, I’m completely unprepared.

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