The Bitterness of the End

Before visiting or speaking to a narcissistic parent, the adult should remember the parent is a narcissist. It might be helpful to review some of their glaring characteristics so expectations can be more appropriately set. Once a person knows a lion is a lion, they should not expect a lamb. 

How to Set Adult Boundaries with Narcissistic Parents…PsychCentral

On the advice of my therapist, I have not told my mother that I’m leaving town. The last thing I need is a late night panic call from the ER that she’s taken a tumble down the stairs and, as her emergency contact, I need to come immediately. I’m not sure how I would handle that. Would I even answer the phone? Would I tell them to call my sister? Would I just say “sorry, wrong number”? Or would I go?

Today, I took her to her last scheduled appointment and to run her errands for the week. I have to keep up some semblance of an appearance so as not to tip her off, but we both know things aren’t right between us. She thinks I’m being a hard-ass, drawing an imaginary line around “my time” and “her time” (which honestly is something I really should have done in the past but never did). I think she’s business as usual.

From the get-go today she wanted to gripe and complain. She was mad that I hadn’t been there in 5 days and that I hadn’t texted more than just a few words, and that was only to say the lawn service would be by on Tuesday due to the rain. I had also told her I didn’t feel well all weekend, which was in no way a lie. When your world gets turned upside down, you don’t feel well.

“Well, food poisoning doesn’t last 5 days,” she said, “so I don’t know why your stomach would be upset. Maybe it’s your demons coming out.”

I started to practice my usual tin foil deflection (imagining myself wrapped in foil so her words can not penetrate me) but then I realized something strange. Her words were not touching me.

When she told me she was not going back to the doctor even if she had cancer, I didn’t respond. When she told me she wasn’t going to leave anything to anyone in her will and they could work for what they got just like she did, I didn’t say a word. When she told me that “my better half would be back soon and we could do whatever it is we do”, I stood stoic. When she tried to guilt me at the door, telling me all the things she struggled with every day without anyone to help her, I said, “I hear you. See you later. Bye.” And I walked out.

The fight or flight response I used to feel every time I entered her presence, wasn’t there today.

I would be proud but it is tremendously hard to be proud of yourself for doing something you should have done 6 years ago.

Finding Courage in a Photo

Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength.

Theodore Roosevelt

My wife and I have started the hard and painful process of separating. There is no anger. We both want what’s best for one another and right now, we each need time and space to heal. Six years of living in a war zone with my mother has taken a toll on us and we’ve forgotten what it’s like not to constantly be on edge, waiting for the phone to ring with the day’s drama. We need to remember happy again and that is going to take time.

While I wait for her to return from her trip, I’ve already started dismantling our home, which never felt like a home anyway. I know neither of us is going to miss this place. As part of my healing process, and admittedly because it felt good to do it, I took all of the things that my mother had given me – clothes, shoes, home goods, etc. that she wanted me to have and insisted I keep, that I never wanted in the first place – and gave them to my dad and step-mom for their upcoming yard sale. I told them to keep the money, donate it, or go out to dinner on me.

For a long time, my wife has told me that I should talk with my dad about his marriage to my mom but I’ve been hesitant. My dad never was a person to talk about his feelings much. But then again, that dad was the dad of my youth, the one my mom told me didn’t want me. I never got the chance to know my dad as an adult, at least not until a few years ago, and only then because my wife insisted I try. So on Saturday, I brewed a to-go cup of coffee and showed up on his doorstep at 9 AM.

I cried. I talked. I asked questions. He gave answers, freely and openly, and without any anger toward my mother. I could see it in his eyes that he knew and felt the pain I was going through because he had gone through it too.

“The guilt she’s putting on you is eating you alive,” he said. “She’s going to destroy you if you don’t get out. You don’t owe her. She’s a grown woman and just because she’s decided to give up on life and be bitter, doesn’t mean you need to go down with her. You have a lot of life left. I’m 75 and I have a lot of life left.”

When we had talked for a while, and drank too much coffee, my step-mom asked if I had eaten.

“Not in about 3 days,” I replied, “except for toast and bananas.”

“Well, let’s get you something to eat,” she said, not taking no for an answer. And so they fed me, and listened to me, and walked with me through their garden and along the creek, and hugged me, and fed me some more, and agreed to adopt the flowers we had planted on our patio when we move, and showed me the kindness and love I needed that day, and throughout my whole life.

As I sit here right now, looking around me, I see empty boxes waiting to be filled with the memories we’ve made over the past decade. I see plans on the calendar that won’t be fulfilled. I see hopes and dreams lost to chaos. And I want to cry and hide myself away from the pain. But among all the brokenness, there’s something else I see. It’s a photo my step-mom showed me while I was there.

The photo is of her, decked out in a cap and gown, leaping into the air. The photo was taken in May of this year. At 63 years old and after 17 tries she finally got her GED. She was beaming with pride as she told the story, and I felt the courage, the conviction, and the determination of never losing sight of a dream. Many people would have given up, especially if they had already retired from a 30-year career with the same employer, but not her. She believed in herself and she gave herself the grace to fail as many times as it took to succeed.

That is what I want for myself. Grace to persevere. Courage to fail as many times as necessary. And faith that it will all work out in the end.

Calling it Quits

No contact means no contact. You’ve got to shut every door and keep them shut. You are in a complex situation. The average person won’t experience this in their lifetime.”

Narcissistic Mother: Low Contact or No Contact…toxicties.com

I have made my decision. I no longer want to be in contact with my mother. Her manipulation, gaslighting, blame, and criticism are more than I can bear and more than my wife should have ever had to be exposed to in the first place. I only regret that I have been so guilt-ridden and hesitant on doing this before. It has cost me a lot.

In deciding to cut ties, I have also decided not to stay here anymore. I was only here for her in the first place and for 6 years now, I have tried to make the best of a bad situation, always wanting desperately to be anywhere else but here. So I am going to seize this opportunity. What the future will bring I do not know.

I hope that I am not too late to save my marriage. I hope that I am not too late to save myself. I hope that I’m not too late to live out all the wonderful dreams we have put on a shelf for far too long. Only time will tell but I do not intend to look back and have already asked my family not to keep me apprised of anything involving my mother. I want to spend the rest of my life making up for this lost time.

My therapist today advised that I do not tell her beforehand, that I ready myself to leave and tell her after the fact. She also advised that if possible, I should leave now. So that is what I am doing – readying to leave. I have reached out to friends. I’ve looked into vans for moving our stuff and storage to hold it all until we find a new home. I’ve looked at vans for living in while we travel to find our forever home. I have turned in notice with our apartment. I have turned in notice with some of my gig work that is tied to this area.

I know this is fast but it is not. It is an accelerated end to a long drawn out drama, and I am ready. I will not be back.