”The Peace that Surpasses All Understanding’, Part 2

I’m using this title for an entry because it seems to be a continuation of the previous entry, dated August 20th.

I have a friend, who happens to be a neighbor, close enough so we can work out together during the week.  I’ve known her about a year, and we have circled each other carefully.  She’s a high powered woman, and in the beginning she had little filter to her mouth: what she thought came out with little consideration about subject or audience.  I didn’t know her well, but I called her on it.  I was surprised because she immediately apologized  and from there we relaxed.  We’ve become good friends, and I value her highly.  She’s the sister I never had.

This isn’t to say that I haven’t done things that annoyed her; I did, and after a rough spell, we realized   we had much more in common than not.

She’s a decade younger but she has an energy about her that can be exhausting; it also can be invigorating.  As I got to know her better, I saw such worth and also such pain.

We get together to do the Callanetics dvd, laughing at the 80’s hairdos and the funny leotards.  B. was doing something called ‘bootcamp’ for the last year, serious 5 times a week running, serious exercising, push ups, crunches, and she was tearing up her joints. B. is also a breast cancer survivor. She was having to go to physical therapy to recover from the bootcamp.  We decided to do this dvd together. 

Isometrics versus Bootcamp.

So far we do the ‘Stomach’ dvd, only 20 minutes, but we both are groaning and sweating at the end.  I am awaiting the full hour Callanetics dvd, something I had in vhs 10 years ago  and recently dumped. Vhs was on the blink.  It is a killer exercise regime, and  Callan Pickney is part sweet, Southern Nazi,  part ballet dancer. 

When it finally arrives we are in for it.  I remember not being able to reach down and tie my joggers because my stomach muscles were screaming.

So we manage to get that 20 minutes in, but we spend about an hour (or more) just talking.

B. is an amazing graphic artist.  She’s been at it for 27 years, and did my bookmarks and cards this spring for the three books published by Lulu.com.  They are so beautiful.  I really admire her abilities.

We’ve been exchanging stories but  I have been listening closely.  B. comes from a very abusive childhood home.  Her mother’s abuse is only now muted by senility.  She still has a foul and berating mouth on her, and uses it to instill control and power over B.  I won’t repeat the language this elderly woman uses on her daughter, but it’s shocking enough that a mother would  say these things so easily.  She was like this, however, before the clouding of her mind.

B. is  a dutiful daughter.  She is patient with her mother, she seems to accept what is nothing but abuse and she has been deeply impacted by a lifetime of this narcissistic behavior. 

And that brings me to a point: When a woman has such  a parent, especially a mother, who abuses her, allows no independent opinion, tears down her self-worth with cruelty, what is finally left of that person?

Well, for all of us, until we get ‘wise’ to the issues….women who make bad choices in life, women who can’t set boundaries, women who sometimes have to hit rock bottom before they can begin the recovery process.

B. is finally blessed, as I am, with a good and knowledgeable therapist.  Actually, it’s not easy to find a therapist who is versed in the issues of Personality Disorders, in particular Narcissism, and many will try to make you ‘swallow’ the abuse of a parent because we are so indoctrinated to take abuse from parents.

A mother’s love is the earliest and most influential part of a child’s life. And when we are children, we have few options.  When we are adults, we have choices.  But the influences stick, and we come from these ruinous relationships with many issues. (These are called ‘fleas’ by some) Bad choices are very much part of this; setting boundaries seems to be the very hardest for women.

Perhaps it is hardest with our mothers.  Recently, I realized this and just gave up. I also realized that I lived in ‘fear’ of her. (this fear is many faceted.  Still working it out)

 I had hoped  there would be some ‘half-way’ ground where my mother could acknowledge my boundaries; where I could express my opinions without her contempt or rudeness. Her rudeness, when it isn’t  outrageous dismissal of an opinion,  usually is expressed by her turning away and showing her impatience with anything said. She doesn’t want to hear you.  This is where narcissism shows it’s ugly head.  If it isn’t about her, it doesn’t have value.

The problem really came down to this:  I never really set boundaries with this woman.  I didn’t know how. I was still hoping  as my mother, she would wake up someday, change.  But she’s a narcissist; in fact, she’s an ignoring narcissist.  In a way, it made it easier for me to walk away.  And that is what I did: I just gave up any hope that things would change between us. I faced a reality that she wasn’t  capable as a human being of any change. She liked the way she was. Narcissists have no inner self-compass.  They don’t question what they do or their effects.  They don’t really have the wiring because they are devoid of empathy.  They may make a show of great emotion and tears, but it’s usually about themselves, or rage that they aren’t getting something.  They really function like 6 year old children, retarded emotionally to this age.

 Six decades of no change, so what was I expecting….the Second Coming of Christ?

Over the years, I have changed.  It hasn’t been a straight line progress, more like the Russian Army: two steps forward, one step back. Or something like that. Hobbled by many things.   Perhaps becoming a writer, and applying myself enough to publish three books so far, and having a good and stable marriage, and certainly this blog helped.

It’s also having a great and comfortable therapist.  Over the past 5 years, she has become the “good” mother.  She has set an example of what motherhood should be, without any preaching.   She’s elderly, too, enough so  I can see her as my mother….and I can mourn all   those years of disruption and grief with my ‘real’ mother.  I can get past the anger and lose because she wasn’t capable of so  many things.  I can’t  really get angry anymore because I feel pity for her. Coming to that was a process. You can’t get angry at a cripple. 

Having the good therapist was so helpful because a mother raising a child needs good influences around her. My child is in the Navy, and almost 24. I feel  I made so many mistakes when he was younger. He survived my rotten parenting, and is thriving and making us proud. So something went right in those early years.  Now I understand so much more about being a mother, and I wish I had the chance to do it right, with what I know now.

No I don’t, I am enjoying my freedom.  He’s a great kid, and somehow the human spirit is so resilient.  I take hope from this.

What I have learned is this: empathy is the key issue in our relationships.  Being able to truly feel what the other feels, to put yourself aside and listen, to try hard to connect with that other person, to be there when they need you most.  Perhaps this is what it means most to be human.

I am hoping my friend B. will find the strength within to walk away from her mother’s horrid abuse.  Like me, once she does, she will start examining very closely all the other relationships in her life: friends that are verbally abusive, friends that are users, friends that really don’t come up to the standard of friendship.  Family, too, will come under this microscope.  Luckily for her, B. has some great sisters.  And she keeps me laughing with the stories of confusing and diverting the mother’s constant abuse.

She’s a good friend, and she deserves support and encouragement.  Mostly, she deserves peace.

Lady Nyo

Out in the marsh reeds

A bird cries out in sorrow,

As though it had recalled

Something better forgotten.

—Ki No Tsurayuki

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8 Responses to “”The Peace that Surpasses All Understanding’, Part 2”

  1. katiewritesagain Says:

    Jane
    I’m glad this woman has you as a friend. I’m glad you are compassionate enough, and intelligent enough, to appreciate a companion that may try your patience. This kind of friendship is richer and more rewarding than the easy, shallow kind.
    I’m glad to count you as a friend!

    Like

  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hey Katie!
    She reached across the table yesterday, took my t hands and said: “We have the same mother.”

    Yes, in terms of abuse, I think we do. The only difference is that I have stayed my distance throughout my life. I really was fearful of her. I didn’t have words for what she was (a narcissist…somewhere on the spectrum) then. It was only through therapy did the words come together and make ultimate sense. I can really say that I don’t know my own mother, except for some fleeting memories of her, than I know of almost strangers. The only thing consistant with her is her enormous anger at life: this is a woman who has had many advantages of class and race, yet still she doesn’t understand her luck. But narcissists are never ‘full’. They are never at peace, contented. They feel slighted if the people around them aren’t constantly attending to their ‘needs’…their narcissistic supply needs.

    These are excellent lessons for me, a woman who raised herself apart from the mother from the end of my teens. Sure, I have ‘fleas’ from having her the only influence around as I grew, and now? I have to reconsider many things I took for ‘normal’ before. Therapy is a chance to bring these issues up and resolve them. It’s a place to feel safe in this. It’s a slow process, but ultimately, it is a very healing place.

    B. doesn’t have children because she didn’t want to inflict that of her mother on kids. We are all so afraid that the ‘sins of the mothers’ will be visited upon us. In some cases, the cycle continues. In others, where there is help, counselling, therapy, the cycle can be broken and new patterns developed.

    B. isn’t an easy woman. She has so much on her plate besides a mother who is senile. Still abusive, but B. can get away. She’s an adult, and that makes all the difference from when we were children.

    We are slaves as children. If we are slaves as adults to the same, we are part of the problem. It isn’t love that keeps adult children in thrall to the emotionally disturbed parent. It’s fear. And a big part laziness.

    Yes, Katie, the friendship is much richer because we have faced some of the exact same things in life. I think most of us have, to some extent or other…whether we are broken by our past, our childhoods, is really a toss of the dice, or so it seems. I have known women who haven’t been able to recover from abuse, either spousal or parental abuse. It’s a heavy struggle in any case, because you have to be conscious of your thoughts, what comes out of your mouth, and in general your behaviors.

    I think compassion is learned at an early age. Perhaps compassion is learned somehow when compassion seems to be the most scarce of things around, when it doesn’t seem to apply to you. I don’t have any answers here: and perhaps compassion and empathy are different things, but I know that they are necessary to being fully human.

    Katie, we have been friends now for five years and I hold you as one of the few real friends in my life. We have been through the fire and this is where our friendship was forged. We are going the distance.

    Hug!
    Jane

    Like

  3. Steve E Says:

    Well, I’ll settle for new ‘acquaintance’, Jane, and be quite happy with that connection. Many years I have wondered what was the relationship between my mother and I? It was weird, that I know.

    She, who was playing the piano in a (nice) bar. I, age 32, was bartender/violinist. The night was so busy, and I so (always) functionally drunk. I vividly recall having all the heart attack symptoms…BAD! As I rushed by the piano, I said to her, in passing
    hurriedly, all bent over–“Mom, I having a heart attack!”

    Her coldly calm response in sing-song style, was “OHHHhhhhhh??”
    Ten years later a doctor, after tests asked me, “How bad were these two heart attacks?” I had taken my mother’s unspoken advice and did nothing about those near-death moments.

    Narcissist? I could easily believe that. Jane, I apologize for using up your commbox for part of my life’s story–grin!

    Blessings.
    PEACE!
    Steve E

    Like

  4. ladynyo Says:

    Steve, never, NEVER apologize for writing your story here. You brought me to tears, sweetheart. You words are valuable in general, and more so specifically.

    Well, I think we get an uneasy sense of them (mothers) when they are somewhere on this narcissist-continuum…but as children, we haven’t a clue. As adults, we feel….diminished for some reason, even when we are as accomplished as some….like a certain symphonic violinist I know.

    Jeez, Steve….the pain never completely resolves, because the unconcern, the neglience, the lack of love from our mothers at an early age scars us deeply. I have been told, by other women (and men) who have such mothers, that there is a certain feeling of resolve when they die. They are no longer around to abuse people. I haven’t had that experience yet, but I doubt it. I think there is some relief, if the abuse is continueous, but so much damage remains unresolved. A good therapist can make all the difference in the world, Steve, but finding one is chancey.

    Your story is shocking but not uncommon. I have read of other people (mostly women) who have had some of the same experiences. One who was pregnant and miscarriaging was met with contention by her mother when she told her what was happening to her. She refused to drive her to the hospital, claiming ‘it was God’s will’ because she was an unwed mother. Jesus.

    But yours has even more pathos to me because I have gotten to know you a bit. That anyone would suffer such from a mother….is incomprehensible. I’m diabetic and my mother refuses to believe I am diabetic because I don’t take insulin. I know the perils of insulin, and have experienced the results for 6 months before I got off it. Some definitely need it, but insulin can increase the issues.

    Yep, Steve, I can really believe you when you said you did nothing about those heart attacks….You adopted the mother’s ignoring behavior towards you, towards yourself. This is so common amongst children and adult children of narcissists. We develop a healthy dose of self-contempt to rival that of what we see from a mentally disturbed parent.

    It is said that narcissism is on a spectrum….from mild to extreme behaivor. It is not an easy thing to diagnose because they never come in for therapy. They are unconcerned about their behaivor towards others because I believe, and this is just my opinion…they don’t have a developed conscience. They function emotionally at the level of a 6 year old child. However, I have seen most 6 year olds with great and developing empathy for animals and other children. There is something very twisted in their wiring. Really, they are crippled by this wiring.

    Steve, you are more than an acquaintance. You are a friend, and with the emails that we have passed back and forth, and your candor, you can’t possibly be less.

    Love and hugs,
    Jane

    Like

  5. CZBZ Says:

    Hello Jane,

    What a pleasure it is to read your blog. You are such a beautiful writer!

    I have met some of the kindest, dearest people in the whole world and they came from narcissistic homes with mothers who did not deserve to be loved by such tender children. That’s the heart-breaker, isn’t it? That people waste so many years of their lives, perhaps even shortchanging their own partners and children, TRYING and TRYING and TRYING to win their mother’s love. And they never get her love because if she had the love to give, she would have given it when they were children.

    And still we try.

    Like you, there are moments when i would like to raise my children all over again—knowing what I know today. Then I wonder if perhaps I know too much and would be fearful of making mistakes??? Maybe it’s best that young mothers raise their kids in a state of blissful ignorance. ha!

    I am sorry that you and others are not able to amend your relationships with your mothers. This is such a deep loss in each person’s life and I wish it could be different for everyone. But it’s not and so the best thing we can do is to love our children, our partners, our families and friends and be grateful we are not narcissists and we do know how to give AND receive ‘love’.

    Hugs,
    CZ

    Like

  6. ladynyo Says:

    Hello CZ!

    First, thank you for reading the blog and your lovely, lovely comment!

    Second, it is a momentual tragedy in our societies that so many mothers are narcissists, or exhibit narcissistic behaviors, complicated by many, many disorders. The children suffer, other people, adults, etc…suffer, and the loss of so much comes from this fundamental issue and state of being. Even a casual persual of the internet gives a glimpse into this landscape of grief. And it seems that it is growing in leaps and bounds. Perhaps this is because people are finally talking about this?

    And you are so right: tenderness seems to be the byproduct of these stunted childhoods, along with many errors of judgement, mistakes in choices, great continuing pain, trauma, but in spite of all of this: tenderness and empathy grows in a field so full of weeds. It’s almost that people are trying to reverse their own pain by practicing tenderness in so many cases. Ultimately, though there are issues of course, this is productive, healing and positive.

    The hardest part of those of us who are ACONs (Adult Children Of Narcissists) is to realize and ACCEPT that these mothers will never change, that there isn’t a death-bed conversion to something that resembles ‘normal and loving’….that they are stuck in a disease, or personality disorder and there is no possibilty of a conversion.

    And yes, we try, and Try, and TRY over and over all throughout our lives to get the love that isn’t possible from these stunted creatures. ONLY when we come to the realization that the ‘well is dry’ will we be able to go on and recover. I think we all go through stages of grief, because grief, when we understand that they are ‘dead’ to our pleas for attention, nuturing, love,…is exactly what we feel. It is a cruel, horrible lesson, but until we come to the truth of the matter, we don’t heal.

    I think another thing you mention is very true: giving love and receiving it. But I think when we come from families with a parental narcissist, these messages are screwed, twisted up. We don’t understand love, and we certainly don’t understand that particular love: unconditional love. In my family, my brothers are adament against that. One in particular, because he is as twisted by the ‘love’ of the narcissist as the narcissist is. “Love” to him is something that has to be earned…proven ‘worthy’ to love. How can children be put in this condition? They are blank slates and their leaning to empathy, unconditional love, is a marvel to see. That is sadistic on the part of a mother to grade a child as ‘worthy’. The lifetime messages of this behavior is bound to make the child fail. This to me is an ultimate tragedy.

    So, I think those of us who have suffered these kind of parents have to learn to understand the many facets of love, what love is, and it’s like praise: we have to be able to honestly accept it. That is a struggle for many of us.

    Thank you so much, CZ for your candor, your compassion and your reading/comment here.

    Hugs!

    Jane

    Like

  7. Liras Says:

    Oh Lady Nyo! I send wishes to you and your friend for healing and balance!

    Be well!

    Like

  8. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Liras!

    Thank you, sweetie! All wishes deeply appreciated!

    Hugs,

    Lady Nyo

    Like

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