A Thirty Year Old Box of Dreams: Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda, and The Side-Effects of Sticktoitiveness

I’m a pack rat. I tend to hold onto things way too long for two reasons: sentimental value or for evidence.

I actually carried around the red patent leather roller skates I had as a kid until I was twenty-three years old. I loved those things. There was never another pair of them on anybody’s feet any time I went skating. A gift from my Dad; one important enough for him to write my name, address, and phone number in with black magic marker, they made me feel special. I now wish I had them… for what I have no idea?

And, as a scapegoated, chronically gaslit person, I’ve saved things for evidence as to who said what, and who did what— so as to have my dates, times, and years correct when writing/talking about them.

The silver box pictured above is thirty years old. It hold letters and cassette tapes from a pen pal I had in the 90’s. I pulled it out to investigate the contents two years ago in November, right before National novel writing month 2019.

This is what I wrote about it in a FB status:

I sat listening to cassette tapes I had from a pen pal in England back in the 90’s last night. For almost 30 years I’ve carted this box of cassette tapes and letters around with me everywhere I’ve ever moved. And I’ve moved a lot. We wrote from 1990-1993 and I would sometimes look at the box and wonder why I still kept it? I wondered if I’d ever again get a cassette player to listen to them? Did they still make cassette players? But, I decided I wanted to listen to them before getting back to writing my second memoir that covers some of that time period. I wanted to jog my memories and give me some semblance of what was going on in my life at the time before getting back to it in November, and let me tell you, I not only laughed, but I also wept. It was like opening a time capsule and learning about my 23 year old self from someone I never got to meet. My penpal was a boy named Tim. And I was a dental hygienist assistant at the time raising a five year old son alone. And having his letters were the most exciting part of my life then.

On the tapes, he would go through my letters, (I’d hear him shuffling through page after page as the birds sang in the background…) and he’d answer my questions as he commented on things I had written about; losing my dental job due to downsizing, not having a phone due to the cost, but telling him he could call my mom’s house for me on a certain date and time if we planned it ahead of time, apologizing for taking so long to write due to not having stamps… God, times were so hard, I don’t know how in the hell I even made it back then.

He reminded me of a painting he made for me that he had shipped, and although I remembered it, and could picture it vividly, I do not have the painting and do not know what happened to it? It was the silhouette of three African women walking off into the sunset with two children in tow. One was balancing a basket on her head. The painting had vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds with contrasting black, and was framed with a black border and acrylic frame. He entitled the painting, ”Going Back to The Village.” — Don’t you think that would make an excellent title for memoir #2, where I write about single motherhood and all that entails? — I sure do!

He commented on sending me something to wear, and I had forgotten it was a jacket, that I can’t for the life of me remember, and no longer have either. He talked about all the places he visited in Europe; Norway, Sweden, Italy, Belgium, Tunisia, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Canary Islands, Holland, Denmark, Switzerland and on, and on. We were the same age and he had done all this living. That made me cry and drove home the point that I’ve never not lived my life for someone else.

He talked about how he wanted to come visit and stay for 3-4 weeks. But, by that time, and after writing for years, I had gotten a boyfriend who wasn’t too keen on the idea so I told him he couldn’t come, and that was the end of our writing and through-the-mail romance.

If I could go back in time and kick my own ass, I certainly would. I was furious with myself all over again, and it’s something I’ve regretted to this day. Not only have I not lived at any time for anyone but others, but I’ve allowed men to dictate and have willingly wrapped myself around whatever it was they decided they wanted. I sobbed like my life was over last night. Like I’m a walking zombie with no god damn life. I couldn’t believe all my life was reduced to this moment. Something has to change…

Today, I will read through the rest of his letters and write down things to remember from them. What TV shows and movies were popular over there then, what music he liked, and learn more about what my stupid-assed twenty something self was and wasn’t doing then. I’ll tell ya, I was existing and not living, that’s what. And, it made me realize, I’m still doing some of that today.

It was surreal to hear the progression of tapes and letters go from a friendship, to a full- blown romance and falling in love through the post. It was my own little slice of heaven to savor last night and I’m ever so grateful I never threw that box away.” 🎁

I found Tim on FB that same day. I sent a friend request and he accepted it. He married late in life, like he told me he would in his letters. He was still as gorgeous as ever; a model in fact, and his wife a real beauty. I longingly looked at the wedding pictures he posted taken in a beautiful English church cathedral, complete with horse drawn carriage, and a big smiling family. And I wondered how different my life would be had I allowed him to visit and continue to sweep me off my feet.

Ironically enough, I (yet again) have a pen pal in England who lives a short distance to where Tim does. I was partnered with her from a group I joined on FB. I chuckled when I found out she was in the U.K. and wondered why that place was coming back to me again? And since writing and having a pen pal is so much easier than it used to be, she wrote to me today telling me how my words stirred in her such emotions about her own life choices that she disappeared into herself for awhile and reflected on her own life choices.

She knows more about me than anyone and she wants me to visit there someday to put away the ghosts of the past. Until then, she wanted to know if there was a message I’d like for her to give him if she runs into him at his tea shop.

“Yes. Tell him my not meeting him is the biggest regret of my life. He was the bright spot in some of my darkest days.”

So much of our longings in life are buried under obligation, roles, and responsibilities and other people’s expectations. And when you show up for those roles and expectations 150% in life, and things still don’t turn out as planned, well it’s enough to make you want to give up. It makes one want to scream at the sky, “What more do you want from me!?”

I have a good life in so many ways, but admittedly, I do still feel bitter at times. Everything I thought I was doing right, is now wrong. Everything I lived for then, gone.

I live in a 55+community now, in which I am luckily still too young to be living in by one year, in a comfortable, quiet, long-term marriage, in a beautiful home, where now, the most unpredictable thing is whose health will fail first? Sad, but true. At this stage of life, we constantly try to find the good, the positive, the silver lining because to do anything else would be miserable.

I still continue looking for my purpose in between workouts, cooking dinner, and walking the dog. And writing memoir still calls to me. Daily. — People say I’m good at it. It’s where I find my youthful strength again. God, I was so strong!

But, sometimes I wonder if writing about the past prevents me from living the life in front of me now? Then, out of guilt, I get busy adding more and more to the to-do list looking for me, as if to say, “I know I’m in here somewhere?” I search in yet another writing course, another art project, another self improvement book, another goal.

I live a mundane existence now, really. There is nowhere to be, and no one needs me. I’m chronically ill, although I don’t look it. I could stay in my pajamas for days if I wanted to and eat a bowl of popcorn for dinner. And some days I have. Some days I resent it. And yet, at other times in life I would have killed to have my life now. It’s quiet, calm, but also full of pain, loss, and a lot of grief. Loss of family, career, home, children, friends, dreams, health and our youth… most of which has to be dealt with all at the same time. Sometimes it’s all too much and still other days, I like it fine. I’m happy to be gaining the wisdom that aging brings.

My husband, who was the one to surprise me with the cassette player for the purpose of listening to these old tapes, sat and listened with me too, and he thought they were so cool. He sat smiling. He laughed. And, he comforted me when I sobbed for my younger stressed out self. “All those sacrifices… for what?!” I cried. He said he wished he’d known me then…

It opened a good conversation where he reminisced about girls who broke his heart, his mistakes in life, things he wishes he’d never done, and the times he had to break his own heart. We sat laughing and crying together on the floor of my craft room.

All in all we’re both happy that we have had stick-to-it-tive-ness and grit to stay the courses we’ve chosen. And yet, other times we wonder if that’s been a good thing? There’s so much I should have given up on… put my foot down on a lot sooner than I did… him being one of them, there’s so much he shouldn’t have done… so much I should have, he could have, done differently. All of which has brought us here with each other; a place that we both love and resent at times.

Sometimes this life is enough and contentment creeps in the back door to give us a deep rest from longing and looking. We’re happy to listen to the same stories we’ve heard again and again, sit and mindlessly watch 90-Day Fiancé reruns for the umpteenth time with our addicted spouse, or create another Pinterest board on finding the beauty in gray hair and dressing to disguise wider hips and camouflaging a menopausal tummy.

And then… you open a thirty year old box of tapes and letters and find yourself asking, “What if I had done this…? Should I have done that…? And was it all worth it?”

And then, you dry your tears, box up your youth and decide to get up and go work through all those what ifs, should haves and could haves, by going to the gym, going for a walk, or just sitting with the fact that you’re pretty certain this is how everybody feels from time to time in life. It’s the side effects of stick-to-it-time-ness. Of a long-term marriage. Of having kids who are adults who no longer resemble anybody you actually know. Of putting yourself on the back burner.

What do you think?

How do you show up for your roles and responsibilities and not put your own needs last? Can it be done?

Do you think people happier when they live for just themselves? Or, are we happier when we dedicate our lives to caring for others? Is there a way to do both? To have our cake and eat it too? Is there ever a way of living that produces no regrets? Is being present in the now always possible? Or selfish? Is not giving up a good trait to have in life? Isn’t it human nature to dream and look longingly to the past? Or in not doing so, would that mean we end up like this guy? 👇🏻

And,

If you’re a scapegoat, what have you held onto for sentimental reasons? What have you held onto for evidence? Are you sentimental because you’re a scapegoat or do you think you’re a scapegoat because you’re sentimental? Do you listen to your intuition when getting rid of or holding onto items? What do you need to let go of? Hold onto? What do you need to label with your name? What do you need to be done with once and for all?

How to Heal from Narcissistic Abuse Using Your Inner Knowing and The Middle Lane

I get a lot of questions via the inbox feature on my book page on FB related to healing from narcissistic abuse. Some are thinking of getting on the road to recovery and wonder where to start. Others were on the road but, out of fear, manipulation, or guilt, by the abuser, pulled to the side, and some even circled back for more of the same. Some are further down the road than others. And some have exited right and are going in another direction all together because they are done with the initial stages of learning.

Make no mistake about it— they are only out the other side of that layer of healing. We all come back to each issue time and again for further understanding and healing until that issue no longer repeats, no longer gives us an arousal jag, and we no longer have any response whatsoever to that event. You know what they call that? Wisdom. And it’s glorious!

After a lifetime of abuse and actively working on healing, and only having a name for what was happening to me in just the past seven years ‘narcissistic abuse;’ with therapy and copious amounts of reading, I can tell you, we will always be in the process of healing something—so the more you take your foot off the gas pedal, the more you stall your own progress. We need to shift gears; upshift (out of our head) as we heal up and out of one trauma, and downshift, as we need to slow down (into our bodies) and further investigate other traumas. It’s a mind/body connection healing.

You already know that narcissistic abuse is on a spectrum. On one end are victims and the other end are perpetrators. And what nobody who teaches about this will ever tell you, all of us have narcissistic traits from time to time. If you haven’t yet realized that you yourself have had some not-so healthy tendencies as you learn about this spectrum, you’re not far enough along yet. You’re still in the finger-pointing stage.

Healthy narcissism is how we get our needs met. It’s how we don’t die as children. But, no one who learns about this is completely innocent of not causing harm to another person. Reactionary abuse. It’s a thing. Learn about it. Forgive yourself. Make amends and move on.

It’s when bad behavior becomes a pattern and causes other people pain and trauma that we slide into the danger zone of unhealthy narcissism and the psychopathy that lies near the end. Two far either way is not healthy. If we’re not careful, this spectrum becomes a circle that like a two-headed snake can bite us in the ass. To avoid this, try to learn about yourself daily. Learn about your triggers and your limitations and stay in the middle lane called, “Survivors and Thrivers.” My favorite motto in life is: “Do No Harm, But Take No Shit.” Something I’ve lived my life by.

Processing our lives at the deepest level is not for wimps. I started my journey as a young runaway on a much more superficial level than where I am today. I learned early to tune into my inner knowing. To observe. To sit and listen and just know. As we get older, learn more, and have more time, we go deeper. If you’re in your twenties and thirties now, you’re busy working, some of you are creating your own families. You’ll come around to the choices you’re making now, much later in life. Try to make good decisions. Because if you don’t, they will be more in your mind in your fifties and sixties, than what you had for dinner yesterday. And please understand, if we’re using our life as a learning tool to learn better and do better, we are never done growing and learning as a person.

I’m always willing to stop and reach back to help and encourage those who are where I used be because I’ve had my own teachers that have helped me, BUT, (and here’s where it gets difficult) no one but YOU can do your work for you. This may sound harsh, but we can’t do it in learned helplessness and excuses that the world seems to be so in love with now. There is no excuse. You have to read, seek help, integrate the learning you do and incorporate it into your life. You’re on the internet already, do research. Read books. Be a seeker. Find your problem and then find the solution. Can’t afford books? Go to the library and check out books. Everything starts with a choice and a decision to end this crazy-making cycle of abuse we have called our life. I made the decision young, you may be making it now. It doesn’t matter as long as you make it.

It starts with accepting what is, like it or not. Don’t like that step? I don’t either. Like you, I know it should be at the end of something, not the beginning, right? Not in this case. We have to accept people where they are. And sometimes we need to leave them there.

So cry, vent, throw yourself a big pity party, rage on paper about how unfair this stupid fucking life is, take up kick boxing, take a nap, a bath, go to bed early, then get up and try again tomorrow. Wake up knowing you showed up for yourself. You did some deep work. You processed. Be proud about that. It’s not easy.

Understand that no matter what anybody has done or said to you, that you have value and worth as you are. We do not have to be perfect to have value. Then learn boundaries even if the only one you know is: a hard line in the sand. Then, you have to get out of your head, stop making excuses, and get into your body and listen to it. Trusting your intuition is of the utmost importance here.

When you feel physically sick around someone because they treat you like shit, I don’t care who it is— your aging parent, your own adult child, your boss, neighbor, etc… you need to limit contact, go no contact, quit your job, move, etc. Just be willing to prepare for and do the next right step for you. AND know that sometimes we also have to feel things deeply and not make a move right now. We can’t always make big changes just because we feel hurt and offended. Don’t get into the lane of extreme everything and immediate gratification too easily. Don’t quit your job because your boss is a douche canoe if you’re a single parent. Be smart about things. Learn to be an AND person.

Know that respect is a two-way street and forgiveness is not necessary to move on, have a good life, or be a good person. Although forgiveness is the one F-word I don’t use, I tend to do enough work surrounding the hurtful issue that forgiveness no longer feels necessary because there’s nothing to forgive.

Forget your diagnoses. Let go of their labels. And categories (and subcategories) that humans do with absolutely everything. Toxic is toxic. Focus on you, and your healing. And yes, you can do that even if you can’t make a bold move right now.

Don’t hope they call, or apologize, don’t fantasize about telling your boss to go screw himself, it will keep your wheels stuck in the mud. Change you. Taking all the blame creates a victim. Not taking any blame creates a narcissist. Stay in your lane. Take whatever blame is yours and shove the rest back into your perpetrators lap and be done with it. They don’t have to know what you’re doing. Get out of your head and stop ruminating. Stop believing your feelings as facts. They are not. Stop with all-or-nothing thinking and catastrophizing. Just stop.

When we say that we can’t stop this abuse because this person is so significant in our lives, or we don’t know where to start, we are saying that we are not significant enough to fight for, or smart enough to figure it out. Not true. You’re stronger and smarter than you know. Acquire some strong, healthy coping skills, and use them even when you find it to feel foreign and uncomfortable. Follow your heart, but take your head with you. Instead of drinking away your problems Friday after work, take a bath, and go to bed early. Sure, it may feel weird at first, until you fall in love with loving yourself and realize you’re the one you’ve waited for all this time!

And get into therapy. Seriously. There’s no excuse not to. I’ve been in therapy throughout my lifetime; from a teen at a runaway shelter, to a single-mother on welfare and food stamps, to a single-mother working as a nurse, to now; a menopausal woman in her mid fifties. Therapy is more assessable now, than ever before. There’s no excuse that should keep you from getting help. There is no shame in needing guidance on what to do next, getting some feedback, or needing a sounding board. Therapists will arm you with the language, coping skills, and validation you need to continue on your journey of healing. And, if you’re still going to say you can’t do therapy because of whatever reason, get a notebook and a pen. The best therapy you can do is to talk it out in the page. I have tons of filled up notebooks! Your intuition knows the answers you need. We are our own best counselor if we just stop with excuses.

When we’re focused on what people think or we’re worried if they judge us for leaving, staying, standing up, or getting therapy, we’re taking our eyes off the road and distracting ourselves with shit that does not matter. People don’t know your life. Let them think what they think. Not everybody needs a response and we don’t have to have an opinion about everything. You will get your energy back when you’re no longer in fight or flight mode and responding to every barking dog along the road.

Focus on yourself. Not what they did. It’s okay to tell your story, it’s okay to out the abuser, but then decide to get over it and use that situation to make yourself better. Flip the script. Learn from it. Why do you think this specific thing is happening? Your intuition knows the answer!

Know this: People who abuse are making a choice to do so. Just like we make the choice not to abuse. Contrary to popular belief, this is not something caused in childhood, and to continue to perpetuate that falsehood is to keep many survivors in danger and in projected empathy that can get them killed, create dis-ease, or cause them to harm themselves. This is a choice.

Also, contrary to popular belief, narcissists do not love themselves. Sounds sad, and this sounds uncaring and crass, but it’s not your problem. No self-respecting person would treat another person the way they do. They have their own work to do and are trying to offload pain and using you as a whipping post. They also need to find other ways to cope. Untie yourself from that post and walk away. What they do and how they act has nothing to do with you. Wish them well and go about living your life.

I know it looks like some are better at healing from this than others. Not true. Some are just further along in learning about this cycle and have integrated what they’ve learned and we are reporting back what’s up ahead. My education in this has been super expensive, not just financially, but it’s taken a toll on my health, my marriage, my looks, my weight, my family, my connection to spirit and community, and my sense of inner peace.

I beg you to stand up when it’s safe to do so and when it won’t cause you further distress or harm. This cycle of abuse that is so prevalent in families and society can kill us unless and until we learn to advocate for ourselves say, “NO MORE!”

If you are reading this, and you’re struggling; wondering how in the world you get off this twisting, winding, bumpy dirt road, with no overhead lighting, know that if you just keep going, a little at a time, you’ll snatch your power back. You just have to make the choice to do so. I know you can do it.

Sit with your notebook and pen, and ask, “What’s the next best step I can take?” Our inner guidance system knows the answer.

Pull off the road
Take a deep breath
Compose yourself
Put your blinker on
Press the gas pedal down
And steer your car back into the middle lane.
Keep your eyes on the road, two hands on the wheel, and keep going. You’ve got this. 💪🏻💥🥊🚀

If you’d like to connect on my book page for Steel Town Girl, go here.

If you’d like to read my first memoir Steel Town Girl about my childhood with two narcissistic parents, you can buy it here

I’m currently writing my second memoir, which for now, still remains unnamed.

Don’t Let the SOB’s Get You Down

Look up images for anxiety and three basic images appear: grabbing ones head, biting nails, or running away. And although those behaviors can be associated with anxiety, gasping for air is far more prevalent in the patients I’ve seen with severe anxiety and is the symptom I grapple with the most with C/PTSD. Like, I have to stop right now, bend over wherever I am — and suck in as much air as I can get, as I struggle to calm my heart palpitations.

I switched to a new doctor recently who doesn’t understand anxiety, let alone C/PTSD no matter my trying to explain it to him. He didn’t care to look at my dosage and frequency. All he was concerned with was my being on anti-anxiety meds over a six month period and telling me that I was addicted now and would need to go to a clinic to get off of them. I was like, “No, I’m not, and I don’t think so!”

I cried on the way home. I told my husband how furious I was that a lifetime of abuse/trauma creates illnesses from anxiety to gastrointestinal disorders, autoimmune disorders to cancer in survivors, and yet perpetrators could not care less and are out living their best lives. That we get traumatized once again as we look for help and a doctor that gets it. And I was absolutely furious that I was referred to as “addicted.”

I vented in my art journal and wept some more. I wrote a letter to the pharmaceutical company for creating something with side- effects so bad that you can’t take it long term, to my original prescribing doctor who didn’t take me off it sooner, to the pharmacist who kept filling it and said nothing, and to my current doctor for being so dismissive of me. I peeled the label from its bottle and plastered it on the page and wrote, “Addicted” “Addict” across the page. I also wrote the words: accountable, balance, authentic, stable, consistent, secure, integrity, responsible, connected, solid. All the things I am and have been to myself and those I care about regardless of my anxiety-C/PTSD diagnosis.

Then, I set about weaning myself off my very, teeny, tiny dose of anti-anxiety med and I even included my anti-depressants for good measure. I’m on Day 55 of no medication and because my dose was so small, I really don’t see a difference without them; especially since I only took them at bedtime.

I didn’t like the way the doctor was dismissive of me considering his lack of knowledge about my condition and his inability to try to understand or even learn. But, I was happy to find my old self who is just bitchy, bold, and ballsy enough to want to prove this douchebag wrong and come off my meds. Without the debilitating side-effects he said I’d have and without a clinic. And even more meds to get off those meds! – What a vicious cycle they want to keep you in! No thanks!

I am writing this because I am short of breath today. I’m not doing much of anything that would cause me to be short-of-breath but I know it’s anxiety sneaking up and clobbering me with its fists, like it has my entire life. And, I will just have to stop, and draw in a breath as deeply as I can and then keep going, like I did for for over four decades prior to getting anti-anxiety meds.

And, this whole thing got me thinking of the word, “addicted.” The only thing I’ve ever been addicted to was creating a loving family of my own and being the best I could be for them. Having everybody be happy and healthy. To laugh and have fun. To get along. That’s it. Not too much to ask? 🤷🏻‍♀️

My sense of humor reminds me that shortness-of-breath is abbreviated S.O.B. in nursing documentation. I giggle and remind myself that I can’t let the SOB’s get me down as I once again stop. And try to breathe.

anxiety #CPTSD #SOB #dismissed

Moms and the Enabling of Toxic Masculinity

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I watched a video the other day where a mother had won a Youtube award by building her channel to over 1 million subscribers and was so excited to share about it she did a Q&A with two of her three adult sons. By the time it was over, I was pretty angry. By the time I read the comments under the video, I was so irritated I was sweating.

In the video she talked about why she started her Youtube channel. It was something she started as a way to find her purpose during the initial stages of the empty nest, which she admittedly confessed she wasn’t dealing with very well. She told her audience (mainly women her age) about the pain of the empty nest and how painful it was for her. I totally understood.

Instead of being met with compassion and understanding for sharing her transparency and truth, she was met with grievances about her; how annoying she was, they made fun of her, mocked her, imitated her, dismissed her, were not really supportive of her, and called her reaction where she described an incident of falling to the ground in devastation after they left home, “Dumb.”

When she turned to explain how painful it was for a mother to give everything, and then nobody need her anymore, he said, “So we’re to blame?” — First, she’s dumb for having the feeling at all and when she pushed back and explained herself, he accused her of blaming them. — No, they are called feelings. Talking. Not blaming. We have feelings and we are human. We are allowed to talk about them.

At one point, as the mother says she will hang the award in her office, the youngest son throws it off to the side. — Nice.

Next, they talked about diet. She told the audience about her diet and said that she ate very… “clean.” As she was searching for the word “clean,” the other son said, “horrible.” He said he’d like to visit and have more than kale and sprouts to choose from to eat. Mind you, he’s out of the house on his own…— Belittling her and being dismissive of her feelings wasn’t good enough, he needed to disagree and insult her lifestyle and diet and expect the house to be stocked with food to his liking even though he doesn’t live at home anymore.

When she asked what else annoyed them about her, one son looked at his watch and asked, “How much time do we have?”

The other son chimed in and mocked her use of reading glasses attached to her cell phone calling them a monocle. They all laugh and he added, “She has the vision of someone well past her fifties” knowing how important it is for his mother (who has a channel about beauty and staying young) to be thought of as beautiful and youthful. The other one says, “God forbid you go out without these (glasses) and we must read the entire menu to her.” — Oh, I’m just busting a gut here… I hope people are as kind to them when they are older.

Then, they accused her of not having “boundaries.”

Wait for it. Because she “never got out of asking them how their day was since their elementary school days.” — Wow. What a shitty parent. How dare she?!

She explained how she loves asking about their lives, their days, their friends, because she cared about them and still does. The one son said, “we’re just out there trying to be men.” — Yikes.

First of all, this kid doesn’t know what a boundary is. It’s some real stretchy, crazy-making behavior from him trying to compare a lack of boundaries with someone caring about you. Not even close to the same thing.

Secondly, the type of “man” who does this, is actually gaslighting you. This type of behavior needs to cease to exist in the future and that will not happen when moms (and dare I say, dads) don’t call this hurtful banter out for what it is: toxic masculinity.

She talked about her parenting and how someone once told her when she was a younger mom to light up like a Christmas tree when she saw her children. She said she loved that idea and has done that ever since. The one son says, “So, you were just ticking a box, not giving us genuine love.” She explained that she thought about how it would have made her feel as a kid if her parents would have done that and because she would have liked it, she always remembered to do it and therefore incorporated it into her parenting. The other son says, “light up like a Christmas tree… so fake.” They accused her of being a liar, a fake, of scarring them and said that the entire video wasn’t for the award, but to prove one thing: “that they caused her pain.”

There’s that narcissists epiphany they talk about.

They talked about the nice notes she used to put in their lunches. And… of course, instead of feeling grateful and appreciative, they remembered how they had to try not to let the other kids see the notes, and said that while all the other kids were trading their goodies with one another, they had apples, and carrots that no one wanted. — Oh, poor bebes. What trauma.

My blood was hot. It was all about them.

Then, I read the comments under the video. And I was beyond aggravated.

“Watching this was sheer joy.” someone wrote. (Not if you know what you’re looking at!)

“Remember when the boys in school threw rocks at us? That’s how boys show love.” (It’s not 1923 anymore, grandma.)

“When boys are comfortable teasing their moms that much, there is nothing but love there.” (No, that much… is too much. I can bet this mother can’t say anything or it gets real bad.)

Eight to ten years ago I would have thought watching another mother with her adult sons teasing and bantering back and forth was cute too. Then, I woke up to “toxic masculinity” and the “enabling” a mother in love with her sons actually does to perpetuate this behavior. Where did I learn this? In therapy.

I’ll be clear here: I thought I had confronted this behavior many times before in my own life with my son. I later learned I hadn’t. When you seriously address this behavior, in a non-joking manner and instead say, “I’m not going to take this hurtful behavior from you anymore,” you will likely forfeit a relationship with your child. And… it gets worse after you address it. How dare you hold them accountable. They will rage like a toddler. Which is why most parents continue to allow the hurtful behavior to continue. Boy, do I get it.

Therapy for both parties; preferably together is best to talk about this harmful relationship dynamic. But, good luck getting that together… it will most likely be a wife and a court order that makes these types of men eventually go to counseling.

At one point in the video, the mom says that she isn’t going to allow her feelings to be hurt anymore because she thinks it hurts her growth. My heart broke for her. — I used to be her. Until I decided that I was tired of swallowing down my pain, smiling for the camera, and showing the world what a “great” family I had, when in fact, it was only great when I was catering to everyone’s needs, was fun and easy to be with at all times, and said nothing about my feelings.

Fuck that. That mother doesn’t live here anymore. And I make no apologies. Feeling alone inside your own family; the one you’ve nurtured and cared for for decades is the epitome of feeling invisible and taken for granted.

Anyway, I wasn’t going to write a comment out under this woman’s video because I wasn’t going to ruin her moment of joy sharing her award by being odd woman out. I wasn’t willing to go head to head with people that have nothing better to do with their time than argue with me about what I’m seeing. I don’t have to defend myself, because I’ve lived it. And, because I’ve been there and done that, I know there’s nothing I’m going to say to this woman about her son’s treatment of her that’s going to open her eyes as to what she’s dealing with until she learns it for herself. It’s an education you get along the path of learning about narcissistic abuse and it’s an education that takes a very long time to get, understand fully, and then incorporate into your life. This woman strikes me as the type of mom that would rather have a toxic family than a fractured one in various stages of healing and understanding.

Here’s what I know this many years after dealing with this kind of behavior:

  • Things said in a joking manner are said for a reason. Those things needs further investigation from both sides. And let’s be clear: joking doesn’t mean it’s funny. A mom, wife, sister, aunt, grandma, friend that’s a girl; may smile and laugh now, but that biting comment will ricochete around in her mind for a very long time. People can only take so much and moms are no different. Learn not to say the biting thing.
  • Behavior like this starts in childhood; usually in teens, and is usually perpetrated by some other toxic male they are mimicking or parroting. Hmm? I wonder who that could be? This woman has three sons all watching the behavior of the other. It makes me wonder how the dad is? I dealt with this behavior each and every time it was exhibited; usually after visitation weekends when my son was a teenager, but kids grow up and become who they really are regardless of our parenting. Soon enough, we have adult males who think dismissive, belittling, devaluing language toward their mother, or women in general, is acceptable, and attractive. — It’s not.
  • Explaining yourself to boys that act like this, isn’t going to work. Our instinct to over-explain for validation of our feelings is a trauma response from our own childhood. Don’t do it. It antagonizes their rage and they blame-shift their accountability. Narcissistic abuse is an addiction to ego. Unless they are pathological, (have antisocial tendencies) they will come to their own realization they need to change in their own time. Nothing you say or do will make them get it sooner. That may mean we have to let them go to face their consequences, grow up, and come to some accountability on their own accord. Hard to do, but necessary.
  • When you learn about narcissistic abuse the first thing they tell you, is to listen to the words toxic individuals use. You’ll realize that in many instances they project onto us what they feel about themselves: “Dumb,” “Liar,” “Fake.” “No boundaries.” “Not getting genuine love.” “Scarred.” — All things the boys are being, doing, or don’t have for their mother. Pretty eye-opening.
  • It is high time we stop telling our daughters and granddaughters that when a boy throws rocks at her that this means he likes her. It’s abuse. Not like. Not love. This is an antiquated idea about how love starts and works that is perpetuated by an older generation who thought this kind of behavior was “cute.” That kind of love doesn’t work in this life anymore. Period.

It’s not a joy to watch a mother squirm, smile and giggle for the camera as she’s being belittled and devalued by her adult sons. If you’re not uncomfortable watching something like that, please educate yourself on toxic masculinity, narcissistic abuse, and enabling behaviors.

Teasing is one thing. I myself, love to banter, and for years I had that same innocent bantering relationship with one of my sons, but it’s important to watch for escalation in hurtful behaviors and boundary crossings. Having your feelings dismissed, being called names, being mocked for who and how you are, is not funny.

It’s time that mothers who are being devalued learn boundaries. (That means with our adult sons as well as our daughters. Yes, there’s a lot of toxic femininity, too) Stand up and say, “no more!” Take up space and do not tolerate disrespectful behaviors as something that is “cute. If they no longer want you as their parent because of this, that’s their choice. But know they are throwing a tantrum. Let them go.

It’s also time for fathers to stand up and say that belittling women; even in a joking manner is not okay. By saying nothing, you send the message that you’re fine with it.

When your adult male child doesn’t change after being told this kind of treatment hurts you, and doesn’t respond to correction, it means they don’t care and they don’t respect either of you. And yes, I know that hurts to hear, but that’s exactly how our adult kids can grow up to treat us. Even after we packed love notes in their lunchboxes and lit up like Christmas trees when we saw their face.

Our kids go on to have many more influences in their lives than just us.

Many of them can be toxic.

It’s time to write ourselves love notes and light up when we see our own faces.

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It’s The Cycle of Life, Not Generational Curses

“Break generational curses!” they scream. If they were carrying lit torches it would look much like a witch hunt. Oh, how Alpha and Omega of us. Godlike, no? To think we know best? Also known as narcissistic. As in, having an excessive view of oneself in the parenting department.

Sure. Please give the job of parenting your best shot. It’s great to see people actively parenting the children they choose to have. But, don’t be so naive to think that just because you do the exact opposite of what your parents did, that you can’t or won’t go on to make your own cycles. I can guarantee you, you did, or will. I was naive enough once too, to believe that all it would take to create a great human being and have a good relationship with my child into adulthood was to parent correctly. Hahaha! Even thinking there is a correct way to parent now makes me laugh.

Food for thought: all the parenting advice you’re reading and doing now, will be wrong when your kids have kids. Two decades after you thought you had all the answers, they may see you as toxic or as something to break. That’s what people who are shouting to break generational curses are doing and saying. That they somehow think their way of parenting will help them rise above any problems later on.

Dream on Alice.

Of course, we want people to do their best when they decide to have children, but our best doesn’t always matter in the end. And it’s not a guarantee that you will always have a relationship with your child once they are an adult.

If you have small children and are screaming about breaking generational curses, please know that your children aren’t even close to being fully formed humans yet, so you may want to grab onto some humility there and pump your breaks. If you have no children, please sit down and talk about things you have personal experience with. Thank you.

If you have adult children and are still screaming to break generational curses, please stop. There are different stages to adulthood. What you see in their twenties, may not be what they are in their thirties. No matter how seriously you take parenting, or how perfect you think you were at it, you can’t know what issues lie ahead of you.

Please stop thinking that difficult cycles end with good parenting. They do not. And it’s toxic, narcissistic, and arrogant to think they do, not to mention a slap in the face to the millions of good parents without a relationship with an adult child. Learn to be insightful enough to realize there is so much more at play in the making of a human than just us and how we raise them. Things we have no control over.

You may in fact break the cycle of abuse, but you may go on to create other cycles — just like your adult children will with their children, and on and on and on… how it all comes out in the wash is a complete and utter crapshoot.

Being estranged from an adult child can feel like the ultimate failure on our part. We’re absolutely sure we did something wrong. And maybe we did? But, we can’t change it now. This is called LIFE. It’s human nature. And nature is cyclical. Ups, downs. Certain characteristics skip generations, only to show up in another. We change and grow. They change and grow. Some choose to stay the same and wither. Sometimes we outgrow others. People leave, only to come home again. We fight and make-up. Fighting to break this natural pattern to life will only break us and destroy the rest of our lives. Instead of fighting to break generational curses, learn and do better, but let’s try to dissolve our egos and stop thinking we have all the answers.

We do not.

Welcome to the Cycle of Life!

Please fasten your seatbelts and keep arms inside the car until the ride comes to a complete stop. Thank you!

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