The Awful Truth… take what you need
Sitting there so solemnly,
A lady full of grace,
In the Louvre gallery,
With a smile upon her face.
I wonder what she’s thinking,
As she looks out at the crowd,
Some people think she’s winking,
Others think she’s proud.
When I was about 9yrs old, my English teacher set us a task at school to write a poem. She liked mine so much she wanted to enter it into a contest. This was such an extraordinary experience, someone liked something I had done without having an ulterior motive (as I was used to, flattery to get something from you – you’re great, now do this thing for me), that it turned my brain into mush and I stupidly told my mother about it. My mother demanded to see this supposedly ‘good enough for a contest’ poem (usually she didn’t give a toss what I did at school), and promptly proceeded to pick it apart, while also deciding to rewrite it, fix it, make it better, so that it would stand a chance of winning. She wanted to win that contest with her poem… but she wanted to do it through me, then if it didn’t win, I’d be the one who lost.
I never entered that contest.
This tiny seed of hope my teacher had planted stayed with me even though it didn’t grow. Several years later I wrote poetry, just for myself, to express what was inside but could not be expressed outside. I wrote in poem form to hide what I was writing from prying eyes, but sometimes I didn’t do a good job of hiding…didn’t really matter. Prying eyes tend to see what they want to see, even when there is nothing there, and they rarely see what is actually there.
One of the poems I wrote was titled ‘The Awful Truth’, and it was about something which happened to me on a regular basis at the mouths of my mother and my father, and often complete strangers to me who had been told who I was by my parents and given permission to share their disapproval with me about myself with no introduction necessary.
The gist of the poem was ‘You’re just like someone else whom I hate, and because I’ve decided you’re just like them I’m going to take my anger at them out on you’.
Which is pretty much what my parents did with me. I was just like whoever they hated in that moment when they needed to hate someone (other than themselves), but they couldn’t talk to the person they hated because those they hated were often bigger than them… I was small, I was there, and so I would do as a receptacle of their ire and fury. My mother hated me for looking just like my father, he had annoyed her, so she took that out on me. He hated me for sounding just like my mother, her voice irritated him, so he took that out on me. Or some random person wanted to curry favour with my parents, so they lectured me about being a good child, to be more respectful of my parents (those who didn’t respect me), and they did it with utter disrespect for me.
What I was being taught was that human thang known as – Do stuff unto to others (especially those who can’t do it back to you and give you a taste of your own medicine, medicine you’re doling out because someone did this to you and you didn’t like it… which is why you think someone else will? Nah!).
I don’t remember most of the instances in which that happened as they were common, familiar, prone to getting forgotten (or deliberately deleted using selective amnesia). Like a painting on a wall which you no longer see… until it is not there anymore, and then you wonder what was there.
My parents loved playing the Awful Truth game, or at least they seemed to, they got such glee and release from it. Perhaps because they ended up feeling good about themselves for making others feel so awful. Comparison and whatnot. They didn’t just do it with me.
My mother often wondered why it was so hard to find a babysitter to look after me. She blamed me. Just as she blamed me for getting an earache and being in pain because of it. That was a nuisance! It was easier to blame others than it was for her to take a look at herself or at my father (who had a tendency to seduce any female in his vicinity that wasn’t my mother). One male babysitter I had, incurred my mother’s jealousy by managing to get me to stop crying just by being there. I was a baby at the time, but I do remember him – his name was Michael and he went off to live in a forest, away from people. He gave me a giant teddy bear before he left, which I promptly named Michael (my mother hated that teddy bear, I wonder why she allowed me to keep it).
Speaking of crying, the few au pairs which I had all left our household before their contract was up because they could not stop crying… and my mother could never understand why they were so tearful. She blamed me, or she blamed them… still missing the point.
I learned not to cry early on, was taught not to do so because it annoyed my mother. She had been a cry baby, or so she said, and I was not allowed to be one. My father didn’t care. If I cried around him, he was out of there.
But both of them cried and never stopped crying. Their tears usually were disguised as something else, but they were still tears, of grief, of frustration, of anger, and misery. My mother’s were usually in the form of bitching, nitpicking, complaining, and the occasionally actual physical crying which made her even more furious than usual, blamed on me – it hurt her more than it hurt me to punish me, to scream at me, to have a tantrum, and other tales. My father’s tears were made of rants, screams, shouts, backstabbing, slamming doors, sleeping around and paint.
And they wondered why so many babysitters and au pairs fled such a home and family.
This brings me to this –
“Here’s my question; What do you think made or shaped you to not turn out to be like your narcissistic parents?”
Thank you very much for asking, M, and for taking me up on my challenge!
Taking the narcissistic bit out of the equation for a moment. Think about your parents. Now think of them as people. A person just like you’re a person. But they’re older than you, and they lived life long before you were alive (even if they were teenagers when they had you – they still had a life before you did).
Once upon a time they were children, just as you were a child, who also had parents (or the equivalent), and their parents were people too.
Are you parents like their parents?
They also grew up during a certain time in history, just as we did, just as the children today (ours and others) are doing. The times in which we grow up influence us, whether we’re in the thick of it or isolated from it, it is still a part of who we become, because it permeates everything, everyone.
Even if you wanted to be exactly like your parents, it’s much harder to do than it sounds and seems, because we’re of a different generation. And what we tend to understand least about the generations on either side of ours… are the same things they don’t get about us. What do we learn from generations, backwards and forwards, and our own? That they’re just like us… only they’re not just like us. We’re like them, only not. We’re all people… but people come in all shapes, sizes, forms, and makes.
In some ways I am like my parents. I occasionally catch myself being just like my mother or father.
Both of them were obstinately rebellious, often to their own detriment. I’m definitely that way. Refusing to be who others want me to be for them… has caused me much grief and trouble, which I could have easily avoided. But it would not have been easy in other ways.
And frankly, when someone pisses me off, I want to crush the living daylights out of them just as my parents did. I’m relieved that I don’t have disintegrating lasers in my fingertips… mind you, I’d have probably used them on myself ages ago.
I have spent a fairly large portion of my life being afraid of people… not for what they could do to me, but of what I might do to them. I was taught by my parents how to do a lot of damage to another with very little effort. This is something which is easy… and hard because it is so easy. People are such delicate flowers, their petals bruise with the slightest touch… and I obstinately rebel against bruising those beautiful petals, even if I have to bruise my own to not bruise theirs.
Not everything about my parents was ‘narcissistic’, or at least what was narcissistic also had other aspects to it. It’s those that you see when you fall for a narcissist… those tendrils of something lovely, but they’re gossamer. They can’t last because of how deeply hurt, and how much that knife twists, the person who is a narcissist is… they can’t help themselves, and neither can you… help them.
I’m not either of my parents, I’m me. Genetically I’m a mix of both of them, by osmosis, by exposure to them, I absorbed them into myself, but I’m still me. Together they created something new, something else. But who or what is this something else.
They weren’t the only ones who had influence upon me, upon who and what I became. Their nature may have blended to create my nature, their nurture (or lack thereof – which is still a form of it) may have intertwined to shape my nature, but theirs was not the only food, fertiliser, sun and rain, which fed the seed of me.
I grew up during a time which had many shades, especially of grey. Fear of a nuclear war, and poof we’re all gone by our own hands… a finger on a button… or still alive but wishing we were dead, living in an irradiated post apocalypse (very different from the dystopian future the generation now forsees for us). Madd Max and Tank Girl. Just before this there was Hippie dippy make love not war. Disco was there too. And Greed became Good… eat everything, use it up and wear it out before we destroy it all. Be Here Now… because tomorrow ain’t coming!
Perhaps it isn’t so much about my parents, or my generation, as it is about others. People. You see I did have babysitters, au pairs, and spent time with other people of all sorts of generations. Not all of them were under the influence of my parents. Some of them were just… themselves, and they came from families which were nothing like mine.
Being with them, for and hour or two, maybe for an entire day, or longer, I was invited into another world where people were nice, kind, compassionate, considerate, respectful… simpler in an uncomplicated way, no excess drama… yet that kind of simplicity may be more complex… and when people are that way, it’s hard not to become that way too.
Being not a narcissist is easy… sometimes.
Just like my English teacher, who was a truly inspiring person, so gentle and so good at passing on information by making you want to know more, they planted a seed within. Those seeds couldn’t really grow in the environment that I had to grow up in, but… seeds have patience, and can lie dormant for ages, waiting for the right moment, the opportunity to become.
Just like the person who nicknamed me Ursula, because in a room full of chaos I could find a quiet spot, curl up, go to sleep, hibernate. A tiny seed waiting for its moment to grow. They saw the seed, and the environment it had been thrown in, and gave it a small gift of kindness – a name which it didn’t understand until later when it finally had some sun and nourishment.
I once was asked to do some babysitting by some friends of my parents for their child. I’d never done this kind of thing before, and I was still a child myself. But it was last minute and desperate and… pressure… I couldn’t refuse. This child was as unsure of me as I was of what I was doing, and ‘acted up’. They sat on the floor in a corner, demanded their mummy to be presented to them, and sulked because they knew mummy wasn’t there and I couldn’t magically make her be there. I contemplated what to do, and then did what my babysitters would have done and did with me – I sat down next to the child and sulked with them. Soon enough they found this funny and we began to chat. They fell asleep later in bed still chatting away happily. It was nice.
Moments like that, are like life poems, decipher them and you can discover a whole other way of being, relating, being with others, and within yourself.
Just because I’m a product of my parents’ natures and nurturing, doesn’t mean I don’t have a say in what I do with it and how it grows.
Some aspects of me have been and are narcissistic – it’s not all unhealthy, but it can be. Mind you, which is which?
Which brings me to this –
“I have a question, here is my question, wait I forgot the question but I remember the answer..wtf, I’m confused. that’s not a question or a answer. Wait I think I remember the question but there can’t possibly be a answer or is there. I love your posts. Most inspiring thing EVER for a daughter with a very Gf an extremely all encompassing very narcissistic mother. Daily thanks”
Thank you very much for sharing, Cyndi16 Middleton, and braving the challenge!
I know that feeling well. The embrace of confusion, the mind swimming in a seas, spinning. To have a question and forget it before it is asked, to have an answer but what is the question it is answering. To attempt to remember and yet… you know but you don’t know, you don’t know but you know. And somewhere within it all is a seed which inspires itself to grow… wait, wait, tiny seed, wait for it… a sprinkle of rain, a dash of sunshine, the warmth of the earth offering sustenance… patience, and then watch yourself go from here to there.
I’ve been through many versions of myself, as we all do, evolving as we go, as we learn and grow. I have been very narcissistic, more so when I was trying not to be anything like my parents. I had such fear and aversion to being anything even remotely like them that I cut pieces of myself off and threw them away… but you can’t do that.
The more I tried to control who I was, the more like them I became. To control such a thing as who you are, you also have to extend your locus of control to include others, and you have to control them, who they are, too. The slightest tremor of things not being as you need them to be and it threatens everything causing the most awful anxiety… an awful anxiety that the awful truth will come out, and you won’t necessarily be the one benefiting from it.
There you are trying oh so hard to be perfect, you’ve studied what this entails, and have squeezed yourself into those size zero skinny jeans, cutting off all circulation, especially to your brain and heart. Then along comes someone who pushes you into a chair while telling you to relax, your seams split wide open and out flops your flesh, your real size, your real self… and it’s so awkward!
Yet so wonderful! Finally you can feel blood rushing through you, alive, to your brain, working again, to your heart, beating again. You’re a mess… and what a glorious mess it is because frankly being perfect was only perfect as a nightmare.
Welcome to my inner garden, feel free to stay a while, rest, relax, pick the flowers… they don’t mind, they know how to grow. Take what you need, feel free to leave something behind.
Just don’t tell me how to tend to my own garden… it tends to itself better without interference.