Unusually Enriching

When confronted with something new, many people’s first reaction is to think it “weird,” or maybe even “stupid.”  But over time, you get used to the unusual thing and then it’s just “unusual” or you don’t even notice it anymore.

I felt that way when I first started seeing unusual spellings of “everyday” names.  I know, I know, where do I—who chose this spelling of my name—get off making remarks about the way someone’s name is spelled?  But, in my head, at least the “y” still sounds like a vowel and it was an easy switch.  No, I mean names where people are using numbers instead of letters to spell the name, or maybe insert a “silent” letter for what reason I don’t know.  Those still seem “weird” to me, but I’m running across them more and more these days, so it’s becoming less jarring.

Also, with our culture becoming more diverse, I’m seeing lots of interesting names, and spellings.  Just look at your Uber or Lyft account, for example.  If you take a look at the trips you’ve taken with them, you’ll see all sorts of unusual names.  Names like Esvin, Fnu, or Ekkaphot show up regularly in your account (at least, if you live in larger cities).  Yes, sometimes they pose a pronunciation challenge (which I enjoy), but I also am fascinated to see these names and wonder what the origin is for them.

The same is true with clothing.  Back where I went to school, if you didn’t wear Jordache Jeans, Jellies, or other clothes popular in the 80s, you were mocked, a lot.  And I’m sure this was true of many other times throughout history.  But nowadays, I walk down the street and see someone sporting the current fashion walking next to someone wearing mis-matching colors and patterns, or maybe someone wearing MC Hammer pants.  While a sight like that might initially be a shock to my eyes, a few moments later, I realize that people are able to be who they are; to let their fashion freak flag fly, as it were.  Which is awesome!  I’m certainly not someone who’s up to date on the latest clothing trends—and sometimes, the latest trends are ugly to me—so I think it’s great that you can find whatever style floats your boat in the stores nowadays.  There’s no limit on choices, and people are less likely to be publicly mocked for proudly displaying their personal fashion sense.

Things like these are why it’s so important to get out of one’s comfort zone and see more of the world.  Even if it’s a big city within your own country, you grow so much as a person when you experience new things and meet new people.  It might be something as simple as finding a new dish that you love, or something deeper, like learning a new philosophy.  But if you can be open to new things, there’s no end to how your life can be enriched.

But I think some people are afraid of learning new things, because they’re afraid of losing hold on their old life.  What they’ve known for most of their life has become comfortable to them; even the parts about it that they hate.  If you experience the same frustrations, then you know how to react to them.  But when something new comes along, you don’t know how to react.  And for some people, that’s scary.

But not for me.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m a Gemini, or if it’s just the way I was born, but I often become bored with things that happen the same way all the time.  It’s part of why I can’t stand a lot of the music right now . . . too repetitive.  I even need variety in how I go home; I get bored if I take the exact same route every day.  So I switch it up every now and then, just to keep things interesting.

So, as jarring as it might be to occasionally see names spelled unusually, or to see “weird” combinations of clothing, I would MUCH prefer that, as opposed to everything and everyone looking the same.

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Un-Healthy Relationships

Today’s gonna be a rant about movies and TV shows that deal with romantic relationships.
Craig and I are finding it harder and harder to watch those kinds of things without getting utterly pissed off at the writers.  I’ve heard that most people write about what they know about, and if that’s true, then it’s no wonder that there are so many divorced people in this country (and possibly the world).
 
Granted, Craig and I have only been married for 5 years (together for 9), so we don’t have “all the answers,” nor do we necessarily think we’re experts on healthy relationships.  But I can tell you that we don’t fall into any of the “classic” traps that you see in relationship-based entertainment.
 
Our biggest pet peeve with these stories is communication, or lack thereof.  Every time we see a scene where a couple has a “misunderstanding” because they weren’t completely honest with each other, we throw up our hands in disgust.  If we’re watching said show at home, we even pause it to discuss where the couple “went wrong,” which then leads to a discussion about how frustrated we are that these kinds of unhealthy relationships seem to be considered “normal.”  When one member of the couple answers “I’m fine,” or “Nothing” when asked “What’s wrong?” by their significant other, we again get disgusted and have to discuss that for a long time.
Another annoyance for us is when couples are mean to each other.  Case in point, the TV show Black-ish.  We used to LOVE this show when it first came on.  It was funny, well-written and gave us points to ponder and discuss.  But over the last couple of seasons, it seems the writers have been upping their abuse of Rainbow.  It’s always annoyed us that her mother-in-law, Ruby, verbally abuses her (while Dre says nothing), but lately Dre himself has been increasingly abusive to her.  So much so, that we’ve often wondered why she stays married to him.  We used to be excited for a new episode to watch, but now, it’s one of the last shows we think to pull up in our streaming list, for the very reasons listed above.
I’ve even started watching less and less romantic comedy movies due to these issues.  Craig still enjoys them a bit more than I do, but he agrees that the communication and crappy behavior in them causes him to enjoy them less than he used to.  I just can’t waste my time anymore on a movie where two people seem to hate each other so much, or whose relationship is based on a lie . . . but then suddenly fall in love with each other (usually after having sex) and everything’s “okay.”  Films like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days or Failure to Launch really hit a new low in my opinion, so I’m even pickier than I used to be.
What we’d like to see happen is for writers to stop writing about what they know, and start writing about how things could be.  You know how some people say that we learn by what we watch (which is certainly true for children)?  Well, why can’t people start writing about healthy relationships?  I’m not talking about The Brady Bunch which I HATED because of how unrealistic it was, but there’s definitely a happy medium between Everybody Loves Raymond (Ray’s mother . . . grrrrrr!) and a Stepford family.  There are still plenty of interesting and dramatic things to discuss in relationships without everything having to be so secretive.  Craig and I have plenty of drama in our lives, but we sit down and discuss things in a calm and respectful manner.  I don’t think I’m always right and him wrong, and he doesn’t treat me like I’m “the little woman.”
Maybe the viewing audience wouldn’t be interested in that sort of thing right now (especially with the current fondness for hyped-up drama from “reality” shows), but I personally would love to see TV and movie execs give something like that a solid chance.  Because, how can we change our reality into something better, if we don’t know what that looks like?

Wanderlust

As I’ve said before, I moved around a lot as a child.  By the time I was about 33, I had lived in as many dwellings.  Not all of them were new cities, and there were years when I stayed put, but I had packed up and MOVED 33 different times by my early thirties (with about 10 of them happening before the age of 16).  Basically, my early years were spent as a vagabond of sorts.

There are several “consequences” that can come from a life like that.  One, is that someone might establish roots somewhere, and never, ever, ever leave, because they’re looking for stability.  They might end up living in the same house for the next 50 years of their life, because they’re looking for stability.

Another possible outcome–as in the case with me–is that I don’t know how to stay in one place.

When I first lived on my own in Chicago, I had a great apartment.  It was very close to work, close to amenities and transportation, was affordable, and in a neighborhood that had once been a bad drug area, but was recently cleaned up, and starting to become the new “hot spot” in town.  As great as it was, after about a year there, I started feeling this itch to leave.  I didn’t want to leave Chicago, because I loved it.  I had a great landlord, who was very responsive, and always brought me flowers for Valentine’s Day (something he did for all the women living in his units, including his daughter in the back).  But yet, there was still this itch to leave, to change something, to shake things up.

Thankfully, I eventually resolved the issue by rearranging the furniture to give me the appearance of a new space.  But this is an itch that crops up every now and then with me, and–while it now takes longer than a year before the itch kicks in–when it hits me, I feel this wanderlust growing inside of me, and I feel like I need to go.  To leave wherever I am and look for what’s over the horizon.

Lately, that’s what I’ve been feeling about where I live now.  I don’t necessarily want to leave Alameda, because I love this little island.  And I don’t necessarily want to move to a new place, because we have an AMAZING apartment at a SUPER cheap rent.  We would never be able to afford something like what we have anywhere else in the Bay area.  Hell, the only reason we have such a sweet deal here is because our landlords inherited the place, and wanted good, responsible tenants more than they wanted a thick bank account.

And I DEFINITELY don’t want to leave my husband, Craig.  I love him, and I love our life together.  I had no idea just how badly I needed his sweetness and unconditional love in my life, but oh, how I did and do!

And yet, there’s still this urge inside of me to leave.  To be somewhere, anywhere other than where I currently am.  To have a new vista, or new something to do.  And I know that–if Craig and I weren’t together–chances are, I’d be gone already.  Being with someone can put a serious crimp on the vagabond lifestyle.  But, again, his love and support help make up for it.

But with this latest bout of wanderlust, I’ve been feeling a sense of guilt along with it.  Like I should be mature enough, and settled enough in myself to stop “running” every few years.  I’m 47 years old, for goodness sake!  Shouldn’t I be more interested in buying a house, or getting a better mortgage than I am in wondering what “else” is out there to see or do?

We’re led to believe that, to be truly happy, you need to stop wanting that “something else.”  There are sayings all over the place that quip “True happiness is not in having what you want, but in wanting what you have” and other such stuff.  The guilt running through my head is a direct cause of these kinds of judgemental quotes.  Then it morphed into a sort of depression over the internal war about leaving versus staying, where I wondered what’s “wrong” with me for wanting “more.”  Where I felt badly that all the wonderful things I have in my life wasn’t “enough.”

But on the other side of that depression, I can see it for the judgement that it is.  While I agree, that acquiring tangible “stuff” can’t make you happy, there’s nothing wrong with wanting new experiences, or new towns.  It’s part of what makes me such a well-rounded person.  Part of why I find it pretty easy to adapt to changes in life (even the ones I haven’t instigated).

So, maybe all I need to do is just take off for a trip somewhere soon.  Maybe going someplace I’ve never been before (even for a weekend) will help satiate my need to rove for a while.

Excuse me while I go check on flights . . .

Personality Precedence

I’ve had a conundrum of sorts invading my brain for the last several weeks.  It’s not something I think about every day, but it’s often enough that I felt the need to write about it.

The issue is this:  When two people have differing views on something that affects them both, whose side wins out?  I’m not talking about grand-scale things like people being allowed to sit at a restaurant counter regardless of their skin color, because that’s a no-brainer in my opinion; discrimination is bad.  Period!

No, I’m talking more about smaller, everyday differences that usually only affect the two people involved.  Let me explain . . .

Let’s say that someone is a hugger.  Their natural instinct is to go around hugging everybody because they love spreading their joy.  Now, let’s say said hugger comes across someone who doesn’t like to be hugged, or even touched.  Whose personality gets to win?  It seems like a logical answer–the person who doesn’t like to be hugged shouldn’t be accosted if s/he doesn’t want to be–but the hugger is now denied being true to him-/herself.

Here’s another scenario . . .

My brother told me he’d seen something that made him think of me, and he bought it for me.  When he described the item to me (a leather necklace with leather dog-tags that said “Gemini” on them), it didn’t sound like anything I’d be interested in.  I don’t wear much jewelry, I’m not into leather, and I’m CERTAINLY not into dog-tag type things.  So when he asked if I wanted him to send it to me, I said “Thank you for thinking of me, but it doesn’t seem like something I’d get much use out of.”

I’ve mentioned that situation to a few people since it happened, and nearly everyone thinks I should’ve let him send it to me and then discard it without him knowing.  But my conundrum is: Why?  If I’ve acknowledged and thanked him for thinking of me (which I did several times in that conversation), why should I accept something that I’ll likely throw out, or at best will collect dust in my house?  Just so his feelings don’t get hurt?  What about my feelings?  And what about when/if he finds out later that I tossed said gift away?  Then his feelings will DEFINITELY be hurt.

Since that incident, other things have come up that make me ponder which side is more “right” than the other, or which personality should take precedence.  For example:

  • Should someone with a dietary restriction accept personally harmful food from another person just to make the giver feel good about their gift?  And then do what, just throw it away after the giver is gone?
  • Same question for someone who’s trying to lose weight . . . Should they accept food from a “food pusher” (who likely equates food with love), just so the pusher’s feelings aren’t hurt?
  • Should a teenage girl have to walk around school all day with her grandparents, just because it’s happened in the past?  What if the girl would feel crappy all day, because she’d have to put on a facade just to please the grandparents?

One of the first times this question arose in me was when I learned about customs when traveling to several Asian countries.  I learned that–if you dine with a Chinese family–it’s expected that you eat everything that’s offered to you.  And if you refuse something, it’s considered very rude.  Well, I’m a picky eater.  Always have been.  So why are the cook’s feelings more important than my comfort?  Why should I have to eat food that I might find disgusting just to appease someone else’s feelings?

I don’t really have an answer to this, but it seems to me that most people think you should just “suck it up” and not make the other person feel bad.  But the problem is, in every one of those scenarios, SOMEONE will likely end up feeling badly.  So, again, who’s feelings take more precedence?

And, more importantly, WHY should people just “suck it up?”  Why isn’t it enough to just acknowledge and appreciate someone’s efforts or good thoughts?  To basically say “Thanks, but no thanks.”

I’d honestly like to hear your opinions on this, dear readers.  I’m not interested in Miss Manners’ take on this (I’ll tell you why I can’t STAND that person in another blog), but I’d like to hear real people’s thoughts on the subject.

Doing Better

Ms. Angelou has lots of wonderful words of inspiration, but this quote has been swimming around in my head a lot lately.  Always interested in being the best human being I can be, I’ve read a lot of self-help books.  In nearly every case, I’ve grown because of them, and learned to “do better” in my life.

I’m going to share some of the ones that have led to the biggest improvements.

The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

This was the first self-help book I remember reading.  It might not technically be considered a self-help book, but so much of what was said in there spoke to me in profound ways.  Through this book, I learned about many Zen teachings, and how to accept that the body that is Alyx Morgan is completely separate from the energy (or soul, or whatever ethereal word you want to use) that’s currently living in it.  That helped me to not fear death or to become too attached to things in this life . . . it’s been SO freeing!

Shortly after a major breakup in my late 20s, I read a series of relationship-based self-help books that also helped me learn things about myself:

Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus by John Gray, Ph.D.

I found so much of what Dr. Gray says in this book helped me to understand the reasons for my emotional needs, but also to not expect my future mate to know exactly what I wanted or needed from him . . . I needed to be able to speak up and make my needs known.  Before this book, I used to think that if someone “really loved me” they would automatically read my mind and give me what I needed . . . how wrong I was.

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

This book was such a HUGE eye opener for me.  I’d never before considered that people spoke different “languages” of love, but he spelled it out in such a way that I could easily see which love languages I speak.  This added on to Dr. Gray’s book so that I knew how best to phrase my needs to my potential mate.

The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz

Aahhhhh, this lovely little book.  While this book is technically a relationship-based book, it’s SO much more.  It’s not just about our relationship with other people, it’s more about the relationship we have with ourselves, and how to love yourself enough that you don’t feel the desperate need for love from others (something I’d done most of my life).

There’s one self-help book that I haven’t read all the way through yet:

The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford

I’ve started reading this book several times, but have never finished it, so maybe I’m still not ready for all of the lessons in its pages.  But the biggest takeaway I’ve gotten from this book is to embrace my “bad” traits as well as my “good” ones.  That there are times it’s perfectly okay to be a “bitch,” or “needy,” or “angry.”  Every human being is made up of multiple facets, and as long as we don’t judge them, we can see where they are useful.  For instance, if I feel someone is trying to take advantage of me, that’s the perfect opportunity for me to let out my anger and/or inner bitch, to let whoever know that I won’t be taken advantage of.  Yes, eventually I’ll learn how to do that without the aggression, but there’s still nothing wrong with said aggression.  Accepting all facets of myself has been extremely helpful in not beating myself up.

As for the last book I’ll discuss in today’s blog . . .

Codependent No More by Melody Beattie

I’m currently reading this book and it’s answering SO many of the remaining questions I’ve had as to many of my behavioral characteristics.  I had suspected that my relationship with my mother was codependent to some extent, but reading this book I can see just how pervasive my codependency is.  In the book, I’ve found several keys for releasing myself from the chains that have held me for such a long time, and I feel like I’ll be able to work through most of the rest of my issues with the lessons I’m learning here.  I’ve been noticing the places where I’m acting in a codependent manner, and have already begun making different choices in my actions and reactions to situations and people.  I had originally checked this book out of our local library, but it will be owned and sitting on our bookshelf very soon.

These books have helped me grow over the years, and I’m forever grateful to them.  Are there any books you’ve read that have taught you things, or helped you to “know better,” and subsequently “do better?”  Please let me know, and maybe I can add them to my bookshelf, too.  😉

The Sins of the Parents

When I was researching the phrase “The sins of the father are the sins of the sons” for this blog, I found two possible origins: the Bible, or William Shakespeare (depending on whether or not you believe in either).  Regardless of where it stemmed from, I’ve never liked the phrase.  When I first heard it, I interpreted it to mean that whatever “wrongs” a parent does, the child will have to pay for.  And later in life, I found that it could also mean the habits and idiosyncrasies of a parent will likely pass down to the child.  Neither interpretation is happy: with the former, the offspring would have to “pay” for their parents’ choices . . . and with the latter the offspring doesn’t have the free will to be his/her own person.

But some things have come up in my life recently that tell me the second meaning is probably more true than I wanted to believe . . .

In doing the research on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), I learned that quite often children from parents with NPD can develop NPD traits as well.  This happens because those children grow up feeling neglected and insecure and those two things often transform into narcissism.  It’s a vicious cycle that began with some ancestor several generations back and keeps moving forward until someone breaks the cycle.

Ever since this discovery, I’ve been on the lookout for narcissistic behavior in myself and have been trying to change my reactions to people or circumstances accordingly.  But I’ve recently discovered that I exhibit one of my mother’s behaviors more than I was aware of . . . jumping to the wrong (often bad) conclusions.  This happens especially in conjunction with trying to be in contact with certain people, namely my brother and Athena (my step-daughter).  Both of them tend to be not as responsive as I would like.  If I text or call one of them, I might not hear back from them for hours or even a day or two.  This then feeds into an insecurity that maybe I’ve done or said something recently that upset them and they’re “punishing” me for it.

This sort of a reaction is bad on a couple of counts.  First, it implies that these people have nothing better to do than wait around for a call or text from me.  Second, it’s my ego inserting itself saying that I’m somehow important enough to said person that they would take time out of their day to be so bothered by some random thing I might say or do that they would deliberately ignore me.

My own life is incredibly busy right now and I don’t have time to speak with my own friends as often as I would like to.  So, I’m probably not as communicative as they might like right now either.  But hopefully they don’t jump to a conclusion that I’m upset with them.  And I need to remind myself of the same thing with regards to other people who don’t get back to me right away.

Another trait from my mother that I apparently (unfortunately) picked up is correcting people’s thoughts or words.  This one bothers me the most right now, because I used to HATE when she did it to me when I was younger . . .

Often, when I would say a word that my mother didn’t like, she would “correct” the word when she responded to me.  For instance, if I talked about how “weird” it was that someone didn’t like mushrooms, she would correct me and say “It’s certainly ‘different.'”  She did this because she thought the word “weird” meant “bad.”  To me, it was simply another way to say “different,” but because it made her uncomfortable, she wouldn’t say the word.  She has lots of euphemisms that she did this with, and each time she did it, I felt like I was getting a subtle message that the words I used were “wrong,” or “bad,” or that there was something wrong with me for using them.

Well unfortunately I’ve apparently started that myself (grrr).  In trying to better my life, I follow things like The Secret that talk about how your outlook on things will change your perception.  It’s like the proverbial glass . . . some people see it as half-full, while others see it as half-empty.  And the thought is that those who see the positive in a situation will continue to see positive things in their lives.

Anyway, Craig will sometimes say things that sound more like a negative spin than a positive one, and I’ve apparently started correcting him to put a positive spin on it.  He recently brought it to my attention and–knowing how badly it made me feel when my mom did it to me–I apologized profusely to him.  Analyzing myself, I understand that I was doing so because I want to make sure I continue to see things in a positive light, but it doesn’t excuse my behavior.  He’s not wrong for phrasing things the way he does, and I need to stop doing things that make him feel like he is wrong (inadvertent though they might be).

I suppose seeing these things in myself can help me to understand my own mother’s behavior a little better, and not be so mad about it, but right now I’m still in the “I can’t believe I’m turning into my mother” phase of acceptance.

Speak (Up) for Yourself

It’s time for me to rant again about something that I’ve found irksome for years, but has grown into a full-on annoyance for me lately . . . People not speaking up for themselves.

Let me set a scene for you . . .

I’m walking through the grocery store, and stop in the produce aisle looking to get some green beans (this kind of thing can happen in any aisle, but I’m trying to eat healthier, so there you go).  I get my bag and start sorting through the legumes to weed out any old ones, when I get this sensation that someone’s hovering nearby.  Using my peripheral vision I notice that, sure enough, there’s another shopper standing next to (or behind) me, apparently interested in the same veggies that I’m currently picking through.  Or maybe they want to pick up a yellow squash off of the display right above the green beans.  Doesn’t matter . . . they just want to be in the same general area that I’m in.

All they need to do is say “Excuse me, can I squeeze in there for . . .” and I’d happily move aside to let them get the squash, or rifle through the beans with me.  But no.  More often than not, people will just stand there, as if they’re waiting for you to get some sort of hint and move aside for them on your own, so they don’t have to speak to a stranger.  (I’m sure it’s not nearly as obnoxious as I’m describing right now, but I did warn you it would be a rant.)

I’ve actually witnessed one woman get pissed off and yell at another shopper for not using the eyes in the back of said shopper’s head to realize there was a woman standing behind, wanting something that the shopper was blocking.  I can’t remember the exact words used, but she basically accused the other shopper of taking their “sweet ass” time with no regard for people around.  I finally piped up and said “Well, how was [the shopper] supposed to know you wanted something they’re blocking?”  The lady was, of course, belligerent and told me to “mind my own business,” but I’ve often found that people say things like that when they don’t like being called out on their own crappy behavior, so I ignored her and moved on.

But this behavior can happen anywhere . . . even just walking down the street.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped to take a picture of something and there are people who will try to squirm and squeeze their way around me, rather than say “Excuse me.” or “Can I get by you?”  Now, true, I shouldn’t be blocking the walkway (and I try not to, as that’s another HUGE pet-peeve of mine), but that doesn’t preclude someone stating that I’m in the way of something they need, or someplace they’re trying to be.

This is true in EVERY relationship you have, not just with strangers in the store or on the street.  Relationships are SO much easier when you say to your mate/sibling/co-worker “This is what I need from you,” rather than saying nothing, and then getting cheesed off when they don’t do what you never even told them you need!  Nobody but YOU is responsible for getting your needs/wants met.  Period.

It seems to me that this pervasive form of passive-aggressiveness has flooded our culture lately.  I don’t know if it’s because there are just so many of us now, that practically every place you go is crowded, or if people have become so afraid of strangers, or if we’re just so disconnected that we’ve forgotten how to talk to one another.  Or, maybe it’s some fear that the other person will get pissed off at you for . . . I don’t know . . . existing?

I know that children are often taught not to be in “the way”–whether it’s your parents, your teachers, or other adults–so maybe this is left over from that kind of mental abuse.  And I’m not exactly sure how to change it, but it definitely NEEDS to change, in my opinion.

It’s not only passive-aggressive, but it’s also an unfair expectation that someone else should know that they’re blocking your way.  I don’t expect ANYBODY to know anything about me, unless I tell them.  We’re all dealing with our own stuff, people.  From jobs, to families, to daily tasks, to emotional baggage . . .  It takes MUCH less energy for me to tell someone what I need/want from them than for them to put all of their stuff aside to try to guess what I need/want from them at any given moment.

And you don’t have to be rude about it.  Honestly, a simple “Excuse me, I need [blank]” takes all of 3 seconds, the other person will likely move aside quickly, and you can be on your merry way.

Unreal Expectations

I used to love romance novels when I was younger.  Fairy tales, too.  Really, anything with a big ol’ Hollywood “And they lived happily ever after” ending.  I just loved the idea of two people meeting and overcoming whatever personality conflicts they had to realize they loved each other.  But as I got older, I realized how potentially damaging those kinds of stories are.  In fact, I just finished reading one and found it so hokey and unrealistic, that it was very hard to finish.

First off, unlike what those kinds of stories would have you believe, very few lasting relationships derive from the hero saving the heroine from whatever catastrophe threw them together in the first place.  After the endorphin from that scenario wears off, most people realize they have nothing in common.  And secondly, making love is NOT the same as being in love.  I now truly despise any movie where the romantic duo have sex and then “realize” they’re in love with each other (I’m looking at you Failure to Launch!).  Real, loving relationships take time, perseverance, and a willingness to be vulnerable to the person you’re partnering with.  You can’t have REAL love unless you’re willing to get real yourself.

One of the other “lies” that heterosexual romance novels perpetuate is that the guy somehow knows exactly how to drive the woman crazy, sexually.  He knows just the right places to touch her in just the right ways; in many cases, even better than she knows how to herself.  And these sex fests always end in a mind-blowing orgasm for her, and oftentimes he climaxes at exactly the same moment she does.  You read too many of those kinds of stories and it can truly distort your expectations of what love and sex is, or should be.

Like with Craig . . . we have what I feel is a truly loving, honest relationship.  I know he loves me, and I think he knows how much I love him.  And our sex life is amazing . . . when we can actually get it in (no pun intended).  But I’ve still got a TON of emotional and sexual baggage that we’re sorting out, some of which was caused by my years of reading these books that are truly nothing more than fantasy.  While reading this recent romance novel, I actually found myself thinking that my marriage was somehow lacking because we weren’t having sex every time we saw each other (like in the book).  I quickly realized there was nothing wrong with Craig and I, and it was shortly thereafter that I started thinking the book hokey and unrealistic.

And it’s just as bad for the “fantasy” books and movies that cater to men.  Porn usually depicts completely unrealistic situations that–if viewed too often–can make someone believe that the hot pizza delivery guy will get laid by every sorority girl when he delivers their pizzas for the pillow fight in their baby doll nighties that ALL college girls have.  *insert eye roll here*  Or what about the girl who is a virgin, but magically likes to do every nasty little sexual thing some sweaty pudgy guy wants to do to her?  *second eye roll*  Then there’s the one about the lesbian lovers who are so turned on by some random guy that they want to have a menage a trois with him.  *violent eye roll that makes my eyes stick that way*

Anyway, these kinds of stories are fine and dandy when they’re treated as the mere fantasies that they are.  But I think there are too many impressionable young men and women who come to view these as real possibilities, which then causes extreme disappointment when they’re faced with the reality of life and love.  I’d like to see more movies and books that discuss a realistic and healthy outlook on love and sex, but sadly, I don’t think they would be as successful.

Maybe if we as a country were more willing to discuss things like that–had better sex education in schools and didn’t consider the topic of sex to be so taboo (as well as discuss emotional health)–we’d be able to raise a new generation of people who didn’t look to their significant other to solve all their problems.

I don’t know, I’m just spouting here.  But I can tell you one thing . . . I won’t be picking up any Harlequin Romances anytime soon.

Taking Care of Mother

I’m going to discuss the last few points from the survey “Do You Have a Narcissistic Mother?” by Dr. Karyl McBride that most affected me in relation to my mother.

The first one I’m going to talk about is one of my mother’s defining traits:

30.  Is your mother controlling, acting like a victim or martyr?

While I’ve never thought of it as “controlling,” my mother has acted like a victim or martyr for as long as I can remember.  When she was going through her alcoholic phase, if I ever mentioned my displeasure at not knowing where she was (when she was 4 hours late for picking me up from my dad’s house), I heard one of three different responses:

  • I had a difficult childhood.
  • Sometimes I just need to forget about my responsibilities.
  • I only do this occasionally (said in a whiny “poor me” voice).

The narcissistic mother who criticizes and hides behind a veneer of martyrdom when her child needs her support is another common manifestation of a narcissistic parent.
(excerpt from The Narcissistic Parent)

Sometimes the words would vary a little, and sometimes she’d combine a couple of them into one, but I heard those excuses from her so often that I can recite them verbatim at will.  Even when I wasn’t complaining about her drinking, she still would mention the rough childhood she had on a regular basis.  The story was always the same; bad childhood, her father beat her, her brother treated her awfully, nobody understood her.

I’m not saying that she was making it up–I’m sure she didn’t have a fabulous childhood–but the sheer frequency of hearing those stories began to wear on my patience, especially because this woman–who claimed to have such a bad relationship with her family–kept trying to be in contact with them!  If I’d been treated the way she was, I’d have walked away from them a LONG time ago.  As it is, I have very little contact with my maternal grandmother and any of the family on that side.  My relationship with them wasn’t as bad as hers, but it was bad enough that I know I don’t want or need most of them in my life on a regular basis.

But her childhood aside, I’ve noticed my mother walks around as though she has the word “VICTIM” stamped on her forehead.  For example, when I first moved to New York, she and her then boyfriend came with to help me move out there and to see the city.  We were walking down the street together when her boyfriend and I noticed she wasn’t behind us anymore.  She’d actually stopped off at one of those sidewalk 3-Card-Monty vendors.  By the time we got back to her, she’d lost $100 betting on that game.  Afterwards, she couldn’t actually explain why she’d stopped, when she KNEW those things are rigged, but she had done it anyway.

Another time, she came to visit me when I was living in Prague.  Now, Prague is a relatively safe place, but it is known for pickpockets.  There, they do what’s called “crowding” where groups of people surround you on public transit, and try to steal from you.  By the time she came to visit me, I’d lived there 7 months without incident, but the very first day she was there her purse had been cut and her passport stolen.  She’s also fallen for several email schemes and at least one get-rich-quick scheme.

Her response to each of those events is usually to blame the perpetrators for their dishonesty, which brings me to another point on the survey:

12.  Does your mother blame things on you or others rather than own responsibility for her feelings or actions?

Rather than try to understand why she falls for each of these schemes, she blames “dishonest people” for taking advantage of her.  Now, I’m not condoning the actions of those who prey on others, but they can only prey on those who allow themselves to be preyed upon.  I’ve also heard her blame clothing stores for having mirrors in the fitting rooms; her reason being that she’s so overweight, she doesn’t want to have to look at herself in the mirror.  That was her response, rather than accepting responsibility for her food choices, or lack of exercise.

Points 14 and 16 are things I only felt a little bit while growing up:

14.  Do you feel you were a slave to your mother?

I wouldn’t say that I was a slave, but from the time I was about 8 years old, I had to babysit my brother whenever my she went out for the evening (which was pretty often).  She also seemed to stop doing chores around the house.  I totally believe that children should do chores in the house, as it builds character and teaches responsibility, but when my brother and I were old enough to do them, I honestly don’t remember her chipping in to do any herself, unless we had company coming over.  This might have been a byproduct of her being a single mother, but when paired with #16, it felt like something more:

16.  Did you have to take care of your mother’s physical needs as a child?

Again, this one needs to be tweaked a little bit.  Aside from babysitting (at my young age) and the chores, there weren’t too many of her physical needs that I had to attend to (except for once or twice when she came home so drunk that I had to help her into bed).  But her emotional needs . . . now THAT was another story.  I DEFINITELY felt like I had to take care of those for her.  In fact, it often felt like I was the adult in the relationship, not her, which is what’s known as “parentification,” one of the many tactics that a person with NPD might use on his/her child.  As I got older, I felt this more and more.

As Michelle Piper explains it:

“. . . The narcissistic mother expects her daughter to take care of her when it should be the other way around.  The daughter is made to feel responsible for the mother’s physical and emotional needs.  These needs can range from an unfair share of cooking and cleaning to playing therapist while her mother talks about her relationships, sex life, and other issues.  These are much bigger roles than any child should have to take on . . .”

Another great site, dedicated to daughters of narcissistic mothers, has this to add:

“. . . parentification is very abusive as the daughter–correctly judging this as the price of her mother’s approval, and not knowing any better–tries to take on the burden of meeting those needs . . .”

This expectation that my mother placed on me (whether intentional or not) meant I had to grow up VERY fast.  In some ways it was a good thing, but in many, it wasn’t, as I’ll describe in better detail next month when I wrap this series up.

Stay tuned . . .

C’mon People Now

One of the best things my mother did when raising me is to teach me that everyone . . . EVERYONE is equal.  Regardless of skin tone, religious beliefs, country of origin, sexual orientation, etc., each and every person on this planet is just as important and vital as the next, and should all be treated equally and fairly.  She had LGBT friends, black friends, Hispanic, Catholic, Wiccan, Jewish . . . you name it.  My childhood was as diverse as it could have possibly been in the middle of Michigan in the 70s.

It wasn’t until I left Michigan and moved out into the world that I learned not everyone felt that same way.  I mean, I had heard of segregation, but to my young, inexperienced self, that was something that had only happened WAY in America’s past, rather than a mere 5-10 years before I was born.  I remember my first encounter with someone using the “n” word and meaning it . . . I was actually shocked and did one of those head-shakes you see in cartoons all the time, where I thought “Did I just hear that right?”

I couldn’t then (and I still can’t, today) understand why people would speak of, or treat another person so cruelly just because they were born with a different skin color, have a different religious belief, sexual orientation, or any number of things that makes us unique.  And it continues to shock me when I hear of people having such prejudiced, narrow-minded beliefs IN THE 21ST CENTURY!  The sheer amount of malicious slurs that are being spoken by certain politicians this year–not to mention the hordes of people who are cheering that crap on–makes me cringe for the enlightenment that I’d hoped we as a nation were moving towards.  So, I’ve decided to help give that enlightenment a little help by posting some music videos that talk about equality and acceptance, and hopefully this will make its way around the internet to offset some of the nasty energy these politicians and their followers are generating.

. . . If you want to listen to these songs, just click on each image and you’ll be taken to the video on YouTube . . .

The first song that resonated with me about this topic is Depeche Mode’s People Are People.  I was more into Pop Music as a teenager, and had never even heard of Depeche Mode before.  It wasn’t until I was living in Florida that I heard this powerful song.  To this day, it’s one of my favorite anthems for equality.

DepecheModePeopleArePeople

The next is a classic from the late 60s.  In Everyday People, Sly & the Family Stone sang about how one person didn’t like another for superficial reasons, and then how that person didn’t like still another person for a different superficial reason (how’s THAT for irony?).  It’s really a great song and if you (like me) enjoy learning the lyrics, you can find them here.

Everyday People

This next song combines SO many of my favorite musical things: an awesome beat (which takes center stage about 3/4 of the way through the song), GORGEOUS harmonies, and powerful lyrics that embody truth and (hopefully) open people’s eyes.

Free Your Mind

But one of my favorite pieces that talks about equality isn’t actually a song . . . though it is on an album.  In Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation: 1814, she has a few Interludes scattered between songs.  The very last one–Interlude: In Complete Darkness–is my favorite:

In complete darkness we are all the same
It is only our knowledge and wisdom that separates us
Don’t let your eyes deceive you

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