Category Archives: Relationships

The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists

bookcoversmLast year, a good friend of mine talked me into buying a copy of The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists.  Oz isn’t a hard sell, but the idea of Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is. The question I asked myself was, is being a jerk really a disorder? The answer, apparently, is yes.

From Wikipedia:

Symptoms of this disorder, as defined by the DSM-IV-TR include:[1]

  • Expects to be recognized as superior and special, without superior accomplishments
  • Expects constant attention, admiration and positive reinforcement from others
  • Envies others and believes others envy him/her
  • Is preoccupied with thoughts and fantasies of great success, enormous attractiveness, power, intelligence
  • Lacks the ability to empathize with the feelings or desires of others
  • Is arrogant in attitudes and behavior
  • Has expectations of special treatment that are unrealistic

As it turns out, I know a couple of people that fit this description and then some, so the book’s many suggestions for relating to, being in a relationship with, or remaining family with someone with NPD were helpful to me.

From the book:
“Your unfounded guilt can be your worst enemy, causing you to try one more time to make him happy.” “On the codependent side of the coin, many individuals in England and America were similarly blinded by their righteous attachment to their “pacifist” ideologies- to such a point that they could not recognize the inevitable danger to their own free society. Like the entrenched codependent with the NPD individual, these groups regularly called for soul searching and an ever-increasing intention to reason with Hitler, to prevent conflict.” Get your copy here.   Get your copy here.

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Truth # 1 – There is No Time.

My mother always told me, “Life is what you make of it.” She’s right. Life is a blank canvas, waiting for you to paint, sketch, or write what you want on it; if you don’t, if you lead a passive consumer life, you’ll be about as satisfied as you are when you buy That Thing featured in all the commercials – which is to say, not very – and no one will take your complaints seriously. I used to live a life that my ex called “following the path of least resistance.” I allowed life to happen willy-nilly, and I adapted accordingly, because I had no real concept of what sort of life I wanted to create. I had time, I thought, to figure it out; I was willing to spend my twenties in a haze of passivity. That passivity ultimately ended up in motherhood, marriage, divorce, and lots of permanent scars and craters in the landscape of my life. Some of the happenings were fantastically good (My son is amazing, for instance.), but if I’d taken a more direct approach to decision-making, if I’d formulated some sort of a game plan for life, my life would definitely look much different than it does, now. It doesn’t, and that’s that – but I’d like to encourage you to take control of the time that you have, because you aren’t guaranteed a later. To quote a dear friend of mine that is not on the blogosphere:

 “your world, your life is yours to shape.  the universe hands you a hammer with which you can tap or you can bang on your life as you see fit to make it the way you want it.  but when you stop doing, when you wallow and mope and allow all the crud to bury your will, you flip that hammer around and offer the handle to whomever is out there.  and when that happens, more often than not, some bastard is going to grab hold and just whack away and dent you all to hell.  but even if you are lucky and some kind person takes possession, their well meaning taps inevitably also do damage — for they do not know what shape you really need and want your life to be.”

Even if you don’t know what you want, your best guess is better than anyone else’s- because it’s yours and this is your life. So, here’s the truth: you don’t have time to goof around with. Time is an illusion. You have this moment, right here- the present. You can spend it any way that you choose, but there’s no such thing as “buying time,” and this moment is irreplaceable.

“Hey man, d’you wanna buy a watch?”

“Hey no, man. Like, I’m not into time, man.”

– Tommy Chong (this is one of my earliest movie memories – thanks, Dad)

You’re better off making it up as you go along than allowing anyone else to do so. Even the most well-intentioned ‘other’ is going to have ulterior motives, good or not. During the above-mentioned passive haze of my 20s, I stumbled into a Barnes & Noble with one of my best girlfriends, and while I was scanning the shelves for Wayne Dyer books I saw this: pronoia The cover is attention-grabbing, so I picked it up and flipped it over. Imagine my surprise when I read this:

“I have seen the future of American literature and its name is Rob Brezsny.” – Tom Robbins

(Tom Robbins is my favorite author. His books are the Bible of my life, and I first encountered his work on the shelves of a thrift store- Jitterbug Perfume was the most satisfying novel I’d ever read, and it only cost me fifty cents.) I didn’t buy the book. I waited, but when I went back later it was gone. I scanned bookstore shelves for it constantly, over and over, everywhere I went. Finally, nearly two years later, I found the book in a different bookstore in a different city while shopping with the same friend. And I bought it then.

From the cover:

Human beings are selfish, small-minded, violence-prone savages, civilization is a blight on the earth, and the rising tide of chaos ensures that everything’s going to fall apart any day now. Right?

Wrong, says Rob Brezsny. In fact, evil is boring. Cynicism is stupid. Despair is lazy. The truth is that the universe is inherently friendly. Life is a sublime game created for our amusement and illumination, and it always gives us exactly what we need, exactly when we need it.

This book causes enlightened introspection, spontaneous optimism, and careful evaluation of your intentions – all in a flippant, artistic, playful manner. It’s the sort of book you might color in, underline, and write in the margins of. It is, in short, a guidebook to life. I still have two more entries inspired by this book, but for now, I’ll close with snippets of interest from the interwebs:

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nanowrimo

Stay tuned for more Pronoia and an update on my word count for NaNoWriMo.


Deliriously Delicious Life

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You probably haven’t missed me, but if you have, you probably already know where I’ve been. If you don’t, here goes: I just got through a disgustingly expensive and time-consuming court ‘battle’ (that word came up repeatedly) over my son. This isn’t a blog where I talk about him, usually, but I figure I have to make some sort of excuse for disappearing. So that’s it. That’s my reason. I’ve had full custody since 2009, when I divorced his father; last year, I started homeschooling because my child was doing abysmally in school, and I rented a second home in his father’s neighborhood so he and the family could help me with the kiddo’s needs. That not only didn’t pan out, they ended up suing for full custody – and they lost, even though I ultimately went to court Pro se (meaning I represented myself).  He still has no custody, and he’s got a visitation arrangement that is actually less visitation than he had last year, but it cost both of us scads of money and it gave me several new gray hairs, and at one point the ex actually intended to use my blog about Loose Girl against me somehow (how?!). His family spammed my fundraising page and my friend’s blogs. His attorney made a huge issue in court about my anti-abuse pages I ‘liked’ on Facebook. And so on and so forth. There are lessons to be learned from this if you have the time or inclination (Marriage is generally a high-risk, low-reward thing, distance from exes is ALWAYS good, and if you have full custody, you have it for a reason so for Pete’s sake steer clear of asking the other parent to ‘help’ if you aren’t sure that their help will actually be helpful, etc.)  – but the biggest lesson is that if you have something to say, someone or several someones out there in the world will try to stop you from saying it. And when that happens, you have to make a choice. Your expression is your light; it is yourself. And you have to choose whether or not to let yourself be silenced, or whether to keep speaking out.

I choose to keep writing. I’m not ashamed of speaking out against abuse, writing about sexuality, or loving literature. The only thing in this  entire blog I’m ashamed of is that I have to confess to having married the sort of person I married in the first place – but life is a process, and I’ve moved on. Now that the mess is over for now, there’s a bit of PTSD, but everything is sweeter, everything is more open, and resuming real life is pretty awesome. So I can get back to the business of blogging, because I’m not ashamed of anything I have to say.

To quote Brian in Vanilla Sky, “It’s the sour and the sweet. And I know sour, which allows me to appreciate the sweet.”

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The thing that buoyed me up during court is my personal philosophy: Pronoia. What is Pronoia, you ask? John Perry Barlow (yes, the guy that wrote for the Grateful Dead) defined it as “the suspicion the Universe is a conspiracy on your behalf.” Ages ago, I ran across a Rob Brezsny book in a Barnes & Noble while looking for a new Wayne Dyer tome. The unique cover attracted me ,and when I turned the book over, I noticed an endorsement by Tom Robbins (the best writer under the moon). The book was:

Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia, Revised and Expanded: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings

And it completely changed my life.

How? That’s the stuff of my next blog. Instead of delving into details, I’ll leave you with a remarkable quote from the book:

“Fairy tales tell of a magic cauldron that cracks apart when a lie is told by the people standing near it. There is one way to restore the pot to wholeness: Speak three great truths in its vicinity.” In my next entries, I will speak my truths.


Silver Linings Playbook

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In an effort to escape my current reality of sifting through the granular remnants of time, I’ve been focusing on Silver Linings Playbook this week. First, there was the audiobook. I’m not sure that I liked it, but it was interesting. Trying to delve into the complexities of life with mood disorders and other problems while explaining societal response to “problems” is a uniquely captivating – and prevalent -subject.

I didn’t have high hopes for the movie, because most of the book occurs inside the protagonist’s head, and how can a film convey all that?

Answer: not well. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good movie, it just has very little in common with the book. In the movie, he’s delusional undiagnosed bipolar with mood swings, and you find that out within the first fifteen minutes. In the book, the guy doesn’t remember the crime that landed him in the psychiatric facility until nearly the end of the story; in the film, he remembers it the entire time. In the movie, he was in the facility for eight months, while in the book he was in “the bad place” for four years.

Behavenet.com had a field day with this film, tagging it with:

Anxiety Disorders | Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder | Bereavement |boundaries | delusion | depression | dose | drug | hallucination | Mania | mental illness | mood swings | obsession | Obsessive Compulsive Disorder | persecutory delusion | psychiatric hospital | psychiatrist | psychotherapy | stress | lithium |Seroquel | quetiapine | Abilify | aripiprazole | trazodone | Xanax | alprazolam |Klonopin | clonazepam | 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine | ethyl alcohol |venlafaxine | Effexor

There’s a lot of good in the book (and even a little in the film, too). One of the best parts of both is that it actualizes the struggles many of us live with (or have lived with) in our day-to-day, validating them with the stamp of public attention. Having spent years of my life looking for answers in literature and living through a couple of dysfunctional relationships, I have to say, most of us deserve better than a silver lining, but from within a bad situation, sometimes that’s the most we can bring ourselves to hope for. We look for answers, advice, and even treatment from the outside- but all change starts within.

My favorite quotes: “Life is not a PG feel-good movie. Real life often ends badly. Literature tries to document this reality, while showing us it is still possible for us to endure nobly.”

“When I read the actual story-how Gatsby loves Daisy so much but can’t ever be with her no matter how hard he tries-I feel like ripping the book in half and calling up Fitzgerald and telling him his book is all wrong, even though I know Fitzgerald is probably deceased. Especially when Gatsby is shot dead in his swimming pool the first time he goes for a swim all summer, Daisy doesn’t even go to his funeral, Nick and Jordan part ways, and Daisy ends up sticking with racist Tom, whose need for sex basically murders an innocent woman, you can tell Fitzgerald never took the time to look up at clouds during sunset, because there’s no silver lining at the end of that book, let me tell you.”

The story reminds me of this Rilo Kiley song:

And the grass it was a ticking
And the sun was on the rise
I never felt so wicked
As when I willed our love to die

And I was your silver lining
As the story goes
I was your silver lining
But now I’m gold

 

One more quote from the book: “And I still love you in my own fucked-up way. I miss you, I really do. Can we still be friends?”


Happy Birthday, Anais Nin!

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No matter how much distance grows between our paths, I’ll always truly love your writing.


Old News

Okay, y’all, please pardon my poor taste in this digression: my son really loves Pink.

Pink, Queen, and pretty much every British invasion band ever.

Mostly, I’m okay with that.

Here’s why:

(Bah dah dah dah dah dah.)

Pink’s videos are genius.

If you can’t sing the praises (I’m groaning, too) of her musical genius, at the very least you can appreciate that these videos are incredibly well put together.

And here’s another plus: Pink isn’t some Avril Lavigne or Miley Cyrus or Selena Gomez or Brittany… you get the picture. She seems to be a pop star that is also a strong woman, and more emotionally honest than most.

“I can be so mean when I wanna be, I am capable of really anything…”

I can’t say that I’m thrilled with the musical quality, but I will say that I do think she seems like she would probably be cool to hang out with.


Farewell, 2012

Every word that I wrang from that washcloth was wrong.

2012 is the year that taught me that I don’t know what “love” is.

I used to believe that I could never love anyone as much as I’d loved before, that I could never reclaim what I’d given to someone else, that I was doomed to the fate that so many women I have known have shared: to love, for a lifetime, the unlovable asshole they “fell in love with” first. I believed that was my fate in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and even 2011. 2012 was the year that taught me that I was an amateur, and that being “in love” had never happened to me before. I’d been infatuated, I’d been consumed, and I’d  been married. I’d never been in love.

Love kicked my ass.

Now I know the soul-accelerating, gut-wrenching, heart-pounding, terrifying, awesome  sensations that go along with being in love with someone totally trustworthy and wonderful, and not knowing how to handle your own emotions. It’s a bit like being drunk for the first time. Some people handle it better than others.

Thank you for existing; for being you, for helping me through, for loving me when I was unlovable, and for sticking around long enough to prove me wrong. I’m not going to make any ludicrous promises never to date anyone else, but I’m not counting on wanting to, either.

Here’s to whatever karmic ass-kicking 2013 has in store. Bring it.

Be careful who you hang around with,” Grandma used to say. “You may fall in love.”

For some idea of how far I’ve come in the last year, check out last year’s New Years post.

Incidentally, if you’re looking for a little light reading,  Frederick and Catherine is the funniest Grimm’s tale ever.