What Are The Strange Gifts of Children of Narcissists? – part 7

Imagine that you’re digging a hole.

You’ve been digging this hole for a long time.

It’s three feet deep, hard work, you’re tired, and fed up with digging but you keep on digging.

Suddenly a person appears at the edge of the hole. Standing above you, looking down on you, and they say: Stop digging that hole.

But this person is not your foreman, the project manager, your boss, even though they’re acting as though they are, seem to think that they are, and are talking as though they are. They keep talking down to you, shouting as though you’re deaf, blind, and stupid, as well as being dirty. You are covered in dirt so maybe they think the dirt has clogged your ears, gotten into your eyes, and wormed its way into your brain.

“It’s bad for you, it’s bad for everyone around you, it’s bad for the environment, you’re bad for doing it, no one will like you if you keep doing it, it’s making you smelly and the odour is disgusting, it’s making people sick, you’re sick…”

You look up to them in astonishment, taking in their crisp white suit, their wrinkled up nose, the sun shining behind their large head which is blocking the light, giving them the illusion of a halo, casting a shadow upon you, leaving you in the dark, out in the cold.

They’re still delivering their statement of the obvious, aroused by their own passionate lust for perfection, fueled by their holier than thou feeling.

“There’s still hope for you, help for you, you can join us on the good side we have fat-free sugar-free gluten-free nut-free cookie-free cookies, you can be free too, you just have to quit what you’re doing, drop that shovel and get out of there, people care about you, don’t you care about yourself…”

You turn your back on them, which does not go down well with the speaker, it rises up and gets up their nose. They’re sounding more and more like your boss, but they are not the boss of you.

You go back to digging, throwing a shovel of dirt over your shoulder for good luck. It works. The white suited preacher runs away. There’ll be another one coming soon at a hole near you. Lecturing other diggers like you. From afar. They always think they’re your first, that they’re special, that they will save you from yourself with their words which you’ve never heard before, a thousand and one nights and day times before.

They never ask you why, why you’re digging, except as a rhetorical question. They think they have all the answers. They don’t want to know why. It might drag them down to your level. Then they might understand why the hole needs to be dug, to bury what’s inside of you six feet under.

Sometimes you wonder as you’re digging, are they real or did you imagine all of this?

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13 – Self-soothe through excessive food, drink, shopping or other addictive behaviors? Your parents’ behavior left you feeling trapped, unloved, hopeless or helpless.

Do I self-soothe through excessive food, drink, shopping or other addictive behaviors?

I think the easiest way for me to answer that question is to invite you to eavesdrop on the conversation which goes on inside my head when I’m indulging in one of my addictions. If you read the part of this post before #13 and its question and its answer for its question – that’s a dream I had last night after I fell asleep pondering the concept of addiction, and my own addictions. It’s a good example of the internal critic and the self-denigrating that goes on inside when I’m engaging in one of my bad habits.

I smoke cigarettes.

It is not self-soothing, in fact it’s the polar opposite on many levels.

It’s stressful to do it – so I should just quit, right?

I keep telling myself that amongst other things, like I’m killing myself, giving myself cancer, pouring black tar on my lungs, poisoning my system, polluting the inner environment. I don’t smoke around other people, and not because other people have banished me like a persona non grata, exiled to do my dirty deed in a seedy side alley only allowed back into society when I see the light at the end of the addiction tunnel. I don’t smoke inside the house, and not just for the sake of keeping those on the inside safe from me, so they don’t have to breathe my toxic fumes, be sickened by the stench, gasp for air in the stagnant cloud of smoke then deodorant sprayed to cover it up, or live in a yellowed musty addicted-me-infested mess.

I like smoking alone outside.

But I don’t like smoking.

I’m not actually addicted to smoking, and yes I know all addicts say that kind of thing, and then say: but it’s true in my case. My body has become used to the nicotine, but if I have to go a few days without it, my body does not miss it. I used to think it did, but then I realised that what I thought was my body missing it and acting up, was not my body at all but something else which was using a scientific fact to get what it wanted.

My addiction to smoking cigarettes is actually not my real addiction – and that’s why it’s been so hard to quit up until now. It will still be hard to quit, but not for the reasons I told myself it was hard to quit before.

I haven’t always been a smoker. Before I became one, I was in the habit of being a goody two shoes.

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The problem with being a goody two shoes is that terms like that get used to describe you, and they’re not exactly complimentary, or supportive. Even the people who aren’t mocking you for what you do and thus don’t do, even the ones who are goody two shoes themselves may use terms and conditions to knock you down a peg or two from that pedestal you’re on – you are competition and dirty tactics may need to be used so they can win, all is fair in love and war and goody two shoes politics, they’ll use environmentally friendly non-bleach bleach to clean things up and cover their track marks and dirty fingerprints afterwards.

I got rather fed up of being a goody two shoes. I wasn’t sure why I was… I mean I knew why I was but was that really a good why, and was it what I really wanted for myself… and decided to venture over to the dark side.

I was a teenager living in Paris, and in those days everyone smoked – a teenager could buy cigarettes, and order a pint, no questions asked, not even an eyebrow raised.

I had, about a year before, tried one of my father’s cigars, and… cigars and cigarettes are a very different kind of smoking experience.

Once I started smoking cigarettes… I quit shortly afterwards for over a decade. Then I started again, quit again. Started again.

Each time I quit, it was far easier than I thought it would be because I’d struggled to quit before I quit without much struggle, but I could not recall how I did it so easily – that should have been my clue as to what was behind the addiction, and what was the real addiction.

I also couldn’t recall exactly what got me started again after a period of quitting. I thought I knew why, but… the answers were clever, good ones – stressful period in my life, a stressor triggered the need to self-soothe.

I totally bought into the self-soothe theory, after all there was proof in the form of professionals, experts, people who knew (me) better than I (knew myself) did, and I agreed with them and their better knowledge. They were convincing answers which meant that I would hopefully just accept them as my answers, not do that really annoying bad habit of mine of questioning, and not notice the fact that something just… felt wrong about the right answers. Was it that they fit too perfectly?

I’m not going to tell you directly what my real addiction is. I’ve only just figured it out myself, and I need to wait and see if I’m playing mind games with myself again. But I can tell you indirectly. It is in everything I am saying to you, to myself. It’s in the title of this series. It’s in every one of my posts in this series within a series:

It’s in the difficulty making decisions, the second-guessing, the doubting of the self – What Are The Strange Gifts of Children of Narcissists?

It’s in the worrying and ruminating, the odd phobias, the inability to accept gifts – What Are The Strange Gifts of Children of Narcissists? – continued

It’s in the people-pleasing, the guilt, the reluctance to get close to others, the confusion, the fear, the difficulty relaxing, laughing, being spontaneous, the unpredictability, the over-scrutiny – What Are The Strange Gifts of Children of Narcissists? – part 3

It’s in the turmoil of relationships, the drawing of the drama, the expecting too much, the dissatisfaction, the never good enough – What Are The Strange Gifts of Children of Narcissists? – part 4

It’s in the fragility of others, the view, the perception, the too hard to handle, the trusting unwisely, the trust no one, the disappointment, the being used, the betrayal of self – What Are The Strange Gifts of Children of Narcissists? – part 5 

It’s in the numbness, the apathy, the overwhelmed, the not knowing what is being felt, feelings, emotions, the bossy expert, the manipulation of words to dominate, the ridicule, the minimised, the dismissed, the missed, the repressed, suppressed, the sensitive, the empathy, sympathy, compassion, passion, demanding attention, the monstrous rage and the monster’s fury, the tears of an actor  – What Are The Strange Gifts of Children of Narcissists? – part 6

It’s in the mess and the order within the messiness, the trying to add a link, it’s supposed to be easy, made easier for you, you dummy, those glitches are your fault not ours. It’s in the easy approve and difficult unapprove once you’ve approved…

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you let them in and they moved in… pushing you aside, not respecting you or your friends, not aware that they are guests, that there is an etiquette, they think they own the place, they shat on the floor, pissed on the sofa, blamed the dog, the cat, accused you of living in a dump, screamed that they could never live in a mess like this, this is awful, they jump on the table, it shudders then breaks under the weight of their world within which is shouting at the world without the slightest inkling of how rude their extreme sensitivity is, they grab your books without reading them and tell you they’re all crap, they set fire to them, which sets the curtains alight, they get burned then flail their arms knocking your treasures against the walls, smashing and crashing around, while claiming only they know the super secret which will save the world from its depravity, they can’t stand you, can’t stand to be with you, so they sit down in their own piss, get pneumonia and sue you for the bodily harm you inflicted on them… and it never once occurs to them that they could just leave if they hate being in your house so much – didn’t they just scream and shout while shaking it all about that if you don’t like a place, if it’s bad for you, you should get out and stay out.

It’s in the difficult to get approval, and the easy to get disapproval.

It’s in everything, and that is why it is so hard to spot.

I will also tell you what it’s not, and what I used to tell myself it was, what I used to think it was.

It’s not what’s behind the counter, behind the slightly disgruntled expression on the cashier’s face, behind the sliding doors hiding the closet with the plastic shelving holding the bad stuff, behind the fear and loathing inducing image and words of warning on a packet of the bad stuff.

It is however on the cover of the magazine which made you buy it even though you baulked at the price because you’d just told yourself how expensive your bad habit was getting and thought of all the money you would save from dying if you just gave up the addiction. It’s in the article inside the magazine – The Science of ADDICTION How new discoveries about the brain can help us kick the habit.

But you haven’t read it yet, even though you took it with you when you went on that trip without the cigarettes, hoping that the cravings would kick in and you could beat them up by reading about how to kick them… but the cravings never kicked in, and you lazily lounged around doing nothing.

What’s wrong with you, you used to love to read, books seemed to be surgically attached to your fingers, and if you weren’t reading the books which were piling up, read on one side, half-read in the middle, yet to be read on the other side, you’d be leafing through magazines, scanning the novelettes on cereal packets, and… why don’t you read anymore?

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One of the things which struck me last night, before I fell asleep was – that the best addiction to have is one which others will praise you for having, they’ll support the habit and call it a good one to have. When you tell them you’re addicted to reading, they’ll gladly supply you with more of your drug, and scold you if you don’t take it. And as it slowly kills you, they’ll tell you how impressed they are that you’re hitting the books!

Now reading was a self-soothing addiction.

It was a release, an escape, a blanking and blocking out of the real world, even when I was reading books written about the real world, by authors writing non-fiction factual tomes of detailed analysis of real people in real situations in reality. It was all a trip to me.

I never wanted to be rid of that addiction, but the addiction abandoned me. One day as I went about doing what I always did, I couldn’t do it anymore. I thought – it’s just a phase, it will come back. Things will return to normal.

I waited, and waited, growing more frustrated with myself, then I fell into lethargy… which was rather soothing for a self who had lost a major component of their coping mechanism. But the lethargy was so boring, mentally, emotionally, physically.

And that’s when I started smoking again.

Recently I started calling cigarettes – narcissists.

Which gave me much food for thought.

If you thought my addiction is Narcissists, it’s not, just as it isn’t cigarettes – it is in those but it is not those.

In retrospect, I was never addicted to narcissists, never attracted to them, it wasn’t them I was attracted to, it wasn’t their narcissistic traits and behaviours which attracted me, it wasn’t the familiarity, the familiar, the family, the unsafe comfort zone, the repetition of my relationship with my parents, my Narcissist parents, the repetition of patterns, habits, training, programming, brainwashing, which a child of Narcissist absorbs, learns by osmosis, through observation, through trauma, over and over, 24/7, from birth until death do you part but even death cannot cut through the Gordian knot.

It has nothing to do with anyone else, it’s not their business, not them making their business my business, and me making it my business and then minding my own business which isn’t mine at all but now it is, it’s become enmeshed, a mess. They made it all about me being all about them, I made it all about them and not about me, and all about me all about them, and… that’s smoke and mirrors, smoke getting in your eyes while looking in a mirror, the mirror crack’d from side to side

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excerpt via – Poetry Foundation: The Lady of Shalott (1832) by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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However to get to where I am now, I did have to be where I was then. I had to believe what I have believed. Think the way I thought. Feel the way I felt. Go through what I went through.

Be thrown into hell by my Narcissist parents, made to go through hell by my Narcissist parents, by other Narcissists, by others, by society, by myself, and then gradually, slowly, agonisingly slowly, dragging, crawling, walking, falling, try to find my way out of the hell labyrinth.

Am I out of hell yet? I don’t know… hell has many facades, and often tells you that you’re in the good place as part of its cunning plan to keep you stuck in its web forever, and get you to torture yourself.

But I do like this fresh new hello.

Of an idea.

Which I am not going to think about.

But I’m not going to not think about it either.

Is this addiction due to my Narcissist parents, because Your parents’ behavior left you feeling trapped, unloved, hopeless or helpless.?

While I can see how addictions like the one I had to reading is definitely due to feeling trapped, and feeling trapped is a trigger for me, more so that feeling unloved, hopeless or helpless.

Feeling unloved is the simplest to solve out of the four feelings of the inner apocalypse.

Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I’m going out into the garden to eat worms… oh, you’re right worms, it’s not your fault, why am I taking it out on you, hey, that tickles, you’re funny, no one loves you either do they, but you’re amazing, look at all the wonderful things you do for the natural world, you even help humans who are always cutting you in half with their shovel when they dig holes… somehow, worms, I feel loved by you, by this soil beneath me, getting itself into all my nooks and crannies, it’s warm…

I can see how my addiction to spending time alone is due to feeling unloved. Solitude is my solace, my friend, my support system, filled with love… a different kind of love to human love.

Hopelessness… I’ve come to appreciate it. It usually happens just before a breakthrough of some sort, a letting go to go forwards. Hopeless is when you’re trying to pack and you don’t know what to take, what you’ll need, if you leave that behind it’ll probably be the most important thing which you don’t have because you left it behind thinking you wouldn’t need it, and all your stuff is wrong, you need new stuff, but you can’t afford it, even if you could… what would you buy, nothing fits, nothing is… and all this nothing doesn’t fit into your suitcase which looked so huge when it was empty but now it’s too tiny… and you don’t want to pack anymore, you just can’t keep doing this, but you have to, and you have to take all of this baggage with you, and it’s so heavy, cumbersome, and you just want to curl up in fetal position wrapped in a duvet but you can’t because your baggage is on top of it, spilling everywhere, heavy, burdensome, ugh… then you get a phone call which says: the trip is canceled. And you reply: Oh… oh… noes… that’s… such… sad… bad… news… I… so… wanted… to… go… Then hang up and a weight has been lifted.

I used to be addicted to clearing stuff out when I was having an existential crisis.

Helplessness… is a dramatic experience, more so than hopelessness. Helpless is how I felt when I was in the garden, digging a hole, and a bolt of pain lightning shot up my leg, my spine, to my brain. I staggered, took a few steps towards an open window to cry for help………………… when I came to I was lying under the window. I could barely move, but I had to…………… when I came to I cried out for help but my voice was a croak, and the local frogs couldn’t help me. Eventually I managed to crawl in agony to the open back door, then inside the house, through the kitchen… I paused to let searing pain shudder and shiver through me… tried to call for help again, but only a squeak came out and the mice were in the attic… after what seemed like an hour I made it down the hall, up the stairs, my partner heard me and hurt his back trying to stop me from sliding down the stairs like a slinky toy because I passed out just as he got to the landing. Helpless is how I felt talking to doctors, nurses… that was far worse than when I was outside crying feebly for help.

I do have an addiction to doing things myself, without asking for help, almost phobic about asking for help.

Trapped is how I felt during the weeks I lay in bed unable to move. I was trapped in my body – I felt that way a lot as a teenager, and I could see only one way out when I was in my teens. I had a dream back then shortly after I’d come close to killing myself. A hypnagogic dream. I was lying in bed, paralysed, and a little old lady (little old ladies were my bogeyman) tricked me into summoning a demon into my body, luckily I figured out how to exorcise it, woke up properly with the crap about suiciding myself scared out of me. I did still get suicidal after that, hopeless, helpless, unloved, pointless to keep going, might as well end this struggle, this torture, now… and when I got that way the dream would return, I’d have it again (only without the hypnagogia) to remind me that this was not the way out, the door which looked like an exit was not an exit.

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The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli

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It takes a long time to learn, at least it does for me (I have testa dura blood boiling in my veins), that feelings like being trapped, being unloved, being hopeless, being helpless can’t be avoided, escaped, denied their part in the human being human experience. It takes even longer to realise that they have a lot to teach, both when you try to stop them, get away from them, and when you accept them, let them engulf you, sweep you along the river Styx. Their best lessons come with rewards which you get by going through trapped, unloved, hopeless, and helpless.

The rewards you get are your own, they are mirrors which reflect you, your mind, psyche, soul, spirit. Your physical body, sensory body, emotional body.

For children of Narcissists,

trying to escape our Narcissist parents give us strange gifts,

going through our parents makes us become…. Children of narcissists, then Children of ourselves, then children of Ourselves, then Ourselves.

Some of our strange gifts can appear to others, and to us, to be very narcissistic, and they may well be exactly that, but Narcissism isn’t the problem, the problem is what each individual does with their portion of it, where it takes them, what they learn from it, and so on.

The thing which creates disorder can also be used to bring order to the disorder the disorder creates.

I use many of the behaviours of my Narcissists parents to untie the knots they tied, then taught me how to tie. Might as well do something positive with all this negative baggage, as throwing it away seems wasteful, and it always boomerangs bang with a vengeance.

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excerpt from HuffPost: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Healthy Narcissism by Elizabeth Lunbeck

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So….

I realise that in yesterday’s post I didn’t do the list of strange gifts which Children of narcissists have, I got caught up in the flow (The Flow a la Mihály Csíkszentmihályi) of a conversation with myself, which became an emotional brainstorming session, and I’m glad I did the way I did it.

This is the last post in this series within a series.

I’m going to press pause for awhile, partly because I’m knackered (happily exhausted), and partly because I’m quitting smoking, and writing and cigarette breaks go together for me.

I will be writing a recap to round this series off, who knows maybe I’ll even write it in list form with soundbites… and keep it short. I’d better warn my neighbour about that, it’s a pig farm.

As always,

thank you for sharing,

take good care of yourselves,

and

over to you…

7 comments

  1. Thank you for your insightful roller-coaster ride/adventure into what is an extremely complicated topic. So much of what you have said is true and has resonated deeply.

    I was a smoker too (for 34 years) up until a year ago when I switched to vaping.

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  2. Smoking! I love smoking! But I gave it up long ago after fighting and fighting with it for years – I was in quite a quit/start/quit cycle. Good luck with it. 🙂 It’s maybe not a surprise that the quitting coincided with getting rid of the ex-N. I didn’t want anything (or anyone) controlling me again. He had also accused me of being an alcoholic (to the point that I quit drinking for a couple of months to test it – there was nothing) and an overeater (he was constantly on me about my weight – it was a little high but normal). It’s easy to see how an N-parent could pass on addictive behaviours to a child. My mother used to nag me about my weight too – I was a lanky teenager without any kind of eating problem, but she was short and very round. It was really her problem/the ex N’s problem (he had had gastric bypass to deal with a weight problem); they were projecting.

    I felt trapped as well. I was always always looking for a way out. But I also couldn’t let my mother know that either – I tried to plan carefully so she still thought she was in control but not really. That usually didn’t work. She would find out and there would be a huge blowup, with me getting more aggressive about running my own life as I got older. Then I had to learn to corral that super-aggressive streak; getting away and getting older helped.

    Have a good break and thanks again for this series. 😀

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    • Thank you 🙂

      I was thinking about the 4 feelings after I published that post, and it occurred to me that feeling unloved, hopeless, helpless, all made me feel trapped in them, which is why feeling trapped was the worst feeling for me. When I was sent to boarding school I felt very unloved/hopeless/helpless, I recall plotting my escape, and factoring in the fact that since I was only 6 yrs old, I probably wouldn’t get far or be taken seriously. I felt trapped in childhood, especially in the child body.

      My mother also had an issue about weight. She was very proud of the fact that she slimmed down her fat baby – I had to hear that story over and over every time she was feeling insecure about how she looked in the ‘good mother’ outfit. And she was always going on about how fat she was even though she was scarecrow thin – my father kept telling her she was fat because he knew it was one of her buttons. My father also had a thing about his weight, and was always telling people they were fat – he particularly liked to do that to his models, although he would sometimes criticise them for being too thin. His mother was always telling him how emaciated he looked – it’s an Italian thing – then trying to stuff food down his throat to show him how much she loved him.

      What narcissists do to others is always a reflection of what has been done to them, and what they are doing to themselves underneath the facade – the facade itself shows what inner demons they are wrestling with.

      But it’s hard to see that because they attack us and we get distracted by the wounds they are inflicting on us.

      The super-aggressive streak is a super-protective streak 🙂

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      • I agree that the super-aggressive streak was super-protective. It came along when I needed it.

        My ex-N was weight-obsessed as well. He monitored what I ate and got really angry if I made what he considered to be too much noise or didn’t use the “right” cutlery. There was some crossover between his behaviour and my mother’s and sister’s.Table manners and “correct” cutlery use were huge issues, and going to a restaurant with them was an ordeal. I don’t even like thinking about it. I always thought that it was just about image and appearance and being able to show superiority in certain situations such as in upper-end restaurants, but I see what you’re saying about the inner demons. The desperation in trying to secure some sort of self-esteem, even if it’s just in a restaurant.

        And oh yes, I did get completely distracted by the wounds they were trying to inflict.

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        • Did you ever read Miss Manners?

          I once studied the whole cutlery thing, and eventually concluded that – why is this important!? Is using the right cutlery curing a disease, bringing world peace, saving the whales, stopping famine, war, etc?

          I use that kind of reasoning to deal with things which generate anxiety or other kinds of drama.

          If someone comes at me with a ball of their own messiness and shouts: You can’t use the meat knife to eat fish!!!!!

          I pause and then say: Will someone die if I use the meat knife to eat fish?

          If they then come at me with: Think of what people will think of you!!!!

          I will then look around at all the people who are not looking at me, not thinking about me, or who may be looking because someone else is causing a scene and they may be wondering how I will answer (because this issue may be one they’re worried about too and they’d like a cure for it) but they’re most likely thinking about the person who is behaving badly by freaking out over a triviality and ruining a lovely meal for everyone.

          Then I’ll shrug and say: If they’re thinking anything about me at all, it will most likely be ‘oh, that person is using a meat knife to cut the fish’ and this might make them feel good about themselves because they would never do something as stupid as that. And thus I have done my random act of kindness for the week.

          I use that system to deal with situations which make me anxious (including memories). When anxiety rises I assess consequences/damage caused by action.

          It’s helped me to redress matters from the past and see things in perspective. Which then ripples into the present and eases the experience of the now. If a glass breaks – the glass has broken, clean it up, put the bits in the glass recycling bin, end of story. No need to have a nuclear meltdown, screaming, yelling, blaming, etc, the way my mother did when a glass got broken. It’s a glass, glass breaks sometimes. Just as milks spills sometimes.

          It’s intriguing to rewire ourselves after being wired and wound up by narcs. Life seems so much calmer, more peaceful, more logical 🙂

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          • Ha! 🙂 I love how you handle this and how your way of thinking crosses over into many other areas of life. All those shoulds that Ns like to drop all over you (and sometimes, non-Ns). Thank you for sharing this way of being and seeing. It’s sometimes been such an attack that (as you have pointed out before) you’re busy picking yourself off the floor and don’t have a lot of logic left.

            Btw, I can relate to the broken glass example. My mother used to go ballistic over the same thing (and other similar things).

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