Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gifts That Matter

I love this time of year; hanging with the kiddos, seeing generosity and random kindness on the street, dwelling on gratitude, the overall wind-down of yet another year and the reflection and memories that come with that, and the anticipation of a bright, shiny new one.  Man, those are the things I live for.

But I am beginning to be oh-so-tired of some of the parts of this season.
Holidays are celebrations, to me, ceremonies to mark the passage of another chunk of this great big ball of life.  This hasn't been the best year in the casa de Vanci, on the surface.  We've had lots of sickness, lots of issues to deal with, lots of pain (both the good, growing kind and the bad, I can't fix this kind.)  We've also had some goodness, sure, but a lot of the goodness that's come our way has been of the silver lining variety, so it's been bittersweet.  That's okay, it's all just part of being messy human beans, and I like that about us; we don't have to pretend to be anything other than we are.

I learned long ago to take the sweet however it comes and to make it my own.  I grew up in a world where there was never a good feeling without strings attached, there was never even a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down, there was very little kindness or compassion and what limited amount there was certainly wasn't freely given to me.  In fact, I provided a lot of that care for others, whether I wanted to or it was taken from me.

It's hard for me to find balance between my natural inclination to reach out to those around me and show them that they matter to me and my overwhelming desire to isolate and insulate myself from the world at large.  I'm not depressed and I'm not afraid of people, but I'm starting to become... well, disgusted is the word for it, with the people around me and their bastardization of this lovely season.

I cannot count how many times I have been asked this week, "Are you ready for Christmas?"
I respond the same way every time, "Sure I am.  Why can't it be tomorrow?"  And I smile.
And I'm stared at because this has become a weird answer to that question in a society that values price-tags over time spent.
The PC and correct answer to the question above, of course, is to launch into a monologue about how many gifts I have left to purchase, and to bitch about how expensive everything is.  I hear this exchange all day long.  And I don't get it.

As a group my co-workers and I decided that we wanted to do something for our boss.  There was an email chain circulating for quite a while with suggestions for this single, well-off, fifty year old woman who happens to be intensely private with her personal life.  A wine basket?  A cheese basket?  A chocolate basket?

Really?  Why not just collect the money, shred it up into confetti and give her that?  What's she going to do with yet another basket of crap?  She can afford her own wine, cheese and chocolate, trust me folks.
So I suggested that we make a charitable donation in her name.
Which was like the frickin' shot heard round the world for a couple of minutes there.  Dead stop.  Then everybody chimed in about what a great thing that would be.
Like it was a new idea, like no one had ever (gasp) done it that way before, like such a thing was unheard of.    So that's what we did and she was touched to tears by it.  It mattered to her that we had found a charity we knew she would support, and that we'd thought to do something for her and for others.

It's not lost on me that my focus on gifts that matter is born, at least partly, of my upbringing as an ACoN.  N's in general suck at gifts, and Nparents tend to use gift-giving as yet another weapon against their children, golden and scapegoat alike.  They use gifts like they use everything, to their benefit.  Growing up, the quantity and quality of gifts given to one child or another was in direct proportion to that child's conformity to their allotted role in my house.  When I was a good little scapegoat, a quietly acquiescent of the abuse victim, I got nicer things, or at least larger piles of middle of the road things.  When I began to speak out, stand up, make waves, the piles of things got smaller and the gifts I received became things that Nsis wanted or that GCYB had asked for - except that I'd get the generic brand or the size too small.  On one notable occasion, ENF gave me a giant box of his used pots and pans (dusty and wrapped in newspaper,) as my only Christmas gift.  This was at the last Christmas we spent with them, and was after I'd started making too much noise about what needed to change in the Clan.  Point taken.  At some point during a lifetime of this type of abuse, gifts stopped mattering much to me, no wonder.

And they don't count for much now, except that the gifts I receive now from the real people in my real life of a loving family of choice are often things that show how much I mean to the people around me.  DH and the DD's always get me things like sweatpants and soft blankets and warm socks and slippers.  On the surface that might not seem like much, but it's incredibly thoughtful as I am always cold.  (Right now it's snowing.  Again.  Nineteen inches accumulated in twenty-four hours.  TW, come take your weather back!)  My BIL and SIL always get me something that speaks to me; a book, a magazine subscription that supports one of my hobbies, etc.  They are gifts that say, Vanci we know you and we think you'll like this!

I try to do the same for all the people in my life, too.  I spend time thinking about them and what I know of them and trying to envision what will make them feel just a little more special or let them know that I see them, hear them, support them, love them for their very own skin and everything it holds in.  That's what makes the gifts matter to me, not the price tag or the trend du jour or what the Jones's have.   That's what takes the crassness out of the commercialization of the generous season, I guess.

So that's what I keep coming back to, what are the gifts that matter?

For me, the greatest gift I've ever been given was the support of the people around me as I've extricated myself from the Crazymaker Clan and stayed out.  They don't really get it, most of them, what it's like to live through that and to get away from that, but they don't have to.  They just love and support me anyway, even when they don't understand.

And the greatest gift I've given myself?  The peace of No Contact, of course, and permission to enjoy it.
So am I ready for Christmas number six without the Narcs and Minions?
Oh yessirree Bob.  Let's move it up to tomorrow.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Hard-Won Knowledge

I talk a lot about what I think and what I've come to believe.
I'm an idea person; as DH sometimes alludes to as he walks away, shaking his head and muttering under his breath, "Always thinking, just always thinking."

And I am.  I'm a curious kitty, though I've been nicknamed a 'bulldog' more than once in my life by more than one person.  I dig and I scratch and I pull and I push and I wiggle in from behind to see what the underlying essence of a thing is; what's at the core.  I've learned not to look for understanding so much as to seek to know a thing.  I want to find the shape, smell, the texture of that thing at the core, whatever it is, and to know if for what it is, even if I can't understand its why.  I want the truth.  No, scratch that, the Truth.  I want to know it and to never attempt to unknow it again.

These are a few of the things that I know, a few Truths I've collected along the way.  Thoughts are malleable, as they should be.  Beliefs are changeable, as they should be.  Show me a man or woman who is incapable of changing their beliefs or thoughts and I will show you at best an un-well person, at worst a narcissist, a psychopath, a sociopath.  But Truths?  They remain.  They don't change.  The are.

What's the Truth, as Vanci sees it?

The source of pain has to be acknowledged in order for the pain to be lessened.
Skeletons in closets are always noisy.
Vulnerability and weakness play on opposite teams.
I am the only person in the entire universe who can create safety for myself.
My actions are always my responsibility, and if I don't like them, changing them belongs to me too.
Evil exists.
So does love.

Stephen King said it best,
"Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too.  They live inside us, and sometimes, they win."

But this is a truth too; sometimes they lose. 
That's a Truth that I hold onto tightly.


Monday, December 3, 2012


I was raised in a torture chamber - and I mean that in both the literal and metaphorical senses, depending on the particular day of my childhood, early adolescence and young adulthood that I'm discussing.  Like the senator's daughter at the other end of Buffalo Bill's basket full of lotion, I shouldn't have been able to get out of the carefully crafted pit my Nparents (and later on, their minions in NSis, GCYB and others) held me prisoner in.

But I did get out.  Sometimes I had help; ropes to safety lowered by people who were willing to save me by helping me to save myself.  Sometimes I didn't have any help at all, sometimes I was all alone in the darkness, and then I had to fight to stay alive, to stay sane, to stay focused on that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.  I've discovered that a large part of healing has to do with finding the will to keep putting one foot in front of the other with an idea of that light as a goal.  I never stopped trying, and if I can credit myself with any part of my escape, it is that; I never stopped trying to find the way out.

I also got lucky, though, and to forget to acknowledge that feels criminal.

A lot of us don't get out, a lot of us don't make it.  I had many aborted and failed attempts at freedom before I found myself in the perfect storm of will, thought and circumstance that helped to propel me out of the hole.  I think that it's a chicken-or-the-egg question to wonder if I created all those ingredients or if I was simply blessed with their presence at the right time and the the right place, and it's one that I don't spend a lot of time looking for an answer to as the end result is the same; I'm out.  Well and truly out.

So I come here to write about that; what it was like and how it changed and how it is now.  I am as open as I can be in the real world and here about these things, but there are certain facts of my life that don't fit well into polite conversation while waiting in line at the grocery store or bank, that I don't drop casually into conversation at my daughters' sporting events or choir concerts.  I will talk about it if it's called for, but it rarely is.  My survival of the NFOO sadists and abusers is the focus of my conversation here, though, and I talk about the path of that survival a lot here.

So, tonight, a question that I don't often address; was it worth it?
All that struggle, all that pain of infinite change and chain-breaking, all the discomfort of prying open sealed closet doors and dragging moldy skeletons out into the light - is the life that I have now, in comparison to the life that I had before, worth all of that work?  I mean, I talk so much about what I've lost, what I no longer have, what I never had in the first place and what I may never have again.  What about the life that I have now; was it worth it?

Well, here's what I got out of it, ladies and gentlemen, here's an abbreviated list of the payouts.

At the point that I escaped from the NFOO, I had an almost failing marriage.  DH and I, we were okay in the sense that we both recognized that the DD's needed stability and we could provide that.  We didn't want to disrupt their lives any more than they already had been, so we had a mutual and unspoken agreement that we'd just ride this shitheap of a relationship out.  As I'm sure most ACoN's know, it's not easy to have a relationship of any kind when you spend every minute of every day lying to yourself in one way or another.

Now, though, DH and I are fantastic.  I'm realler than real, and he digs the real me.  I can see who he really is and I genuinely like the guy.  We are, ahem, in love.  More in love than we ever have been and we love spending time together; we have an awesome time just being in each other's company.  We are strong together and we both take time to seek understanding and joy in our relationship.  We're not perfect, but we merrily acknowledge our flaws and choose the ways in which we'll grow together.  My marriage is one of the highlights of my days, and that's been going on for several of the (NC) years.

My relationship with my DD's was pretty fragile at the end of contact with the NFOO.  The Girls (as they are affectionately known in our household) had been hurt by the N's, too, particularly in the sense that all the N's spent a healthy dose of energy undercutting the Girls' relationships with their mom and dad (DH and me.)   We're talking about giving them secret diaries to communicate behind my back with, leading them with questions about what they would do if their mom ever forbade contact, telling them stories about how fucked up I was as a teenager and planting the seeds to imply that they couldn't trust me.  Just your basic Narc arsenal stuff.

Now, though, the relationship between the Girls and me is good.  They're teenagers, so there's always something going on in their hormone fueled and developing brains and actions, but our relationship is normal by basic mother-teenaged daughter standards and dynamics.  I set boundaries - they test them.  We discuss.  They sometimes step out of those boundaries, and depending on the type of boundary it is, we either discuss expanding the boundaries (curfews) or we talk about the reason that their misstep just made the boundary tighter (not being where they are supposed to be or keeping in contact about their location.)  Either way, no matter what, love is never a card that gets thrown on the table.  Their self-worth isn't up for grabs.  They're learning how to be responsible for themselves, and I'm learning how to let them.  Pretty freekin' normal, I think.

When I escaped from the NFOO, one of my primary fears was the loss of relationships that I felt that I couldn't be without: mother, father, sister, brother, uncle.  I couldn't imagine a world in which I didn't have these family ties.  It felt scary to even contemplate their loss; like walking a tight rope with no safety wires or nets.

I did lose these relationships, but the gift of these losses was two-fold; first, I realized in that temporary void of those ties that the relationships I'd had in those categories were painful relationships that I didn't want to repeat.  Second, I realized that I could form a better version of these types of relationships with people who didn't share even a portion of my genetic code.  I have several close sister-like, brother-like and even mother-and-father-like relationships now with members of my family of choice; people that define these family roles as they should be, by their loving actions.  I reciprocate, too.

Even on the material front, I had suffered so many losses at the hands of the NFOO's training.  GCYB still, to this day, has not repaid a single red cent of the several thousand dollars that DH and I loaned him to start his business.  That was seven years ago and the business (from what I can tell) is now defunct.  We've long since paid off the loan that we took out for those funds for him, though, and without the additional financial burdens inherent in my Scapegoat role (paying NSis to 'watch' my children when she chose not to work, paying for every meal out ever eaten with them, paying for every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, paying for all the emergency needs that they always seemed to have, etc,) DH and I will be completely debt free (apart from mortgages) in the next month or so.

My drinking is my responsibility and I accept that.  In the struggle to get free, though, toward the end, my drinking escalated severely and any semblance of normal drinking melted utterly into my alcoholic spiral toward devastation.  My health, sanity and overall well-being were sincerely compromised.  I am only sober today because of NC with the NFOO.  They NEVER would have allowed my sobriety if they were still in the picture, and would have spent loads of time and energy sabotaging my sobriety if they'd been around.  Sober Vanci is a clear-thinking Vanci after all, and that's the LAST thing the Narcs want from their previously well-trained Scapegoat.

Due to my sobriety and the work that I needed to do on myself - which was made so incredibly apparent by the decision to go NC - I was able to land in a job/career that suits me to a T, in which I am appreciated, adequately compensated and valued.  This would not have happened when I was part of the NFOO; too much of my energy was being vamped away on a daily basis for me to pay attention to my job.

So, a quick wrap up list of the things in my life that are awesome without the NFOO in my life (that otherwise would not be so:)

My awesome marriage.
My fantastic relationship with my daughters.
My incredible group of supportive friends and FOC.
My fiscal well-being.
My ability to stay sober.
My fitting career and pleasure in my job.

Somehow, I think I got the best of the deal.


Friday, November 30, 2012

Choosing Not to Play the Crooked Game

An old question asked of the washed-up cowboy who's lost all his coin in the saloon's game of cards as he laments that he knew the deck was stacked and he shouldn't have played:
"If you knew the game was crooked, hoss, why'd you play?"
To which the cowboy answers,

"Pardner, it was the only game in town."

I played my part in the NFOO Crazymaker game for thirty years; seventeen by the conscription of my minor status and thirteen more out of varying degrees of guilt, shame, obligation, fear and myriad other dark, compelling, binding chains of emotion.  Did I know it was crooked?  Did I know it was a fool's exercise as I ran and ran and ran myself to death on the giant hamster wheel of the parameters of my service to the needs, wants, desires and whims of the Clan's members?  Did I know that the end result, the payout, the promised reward of acceptance for my one and only self as a full-fledged member of the group was a hollow, rotten promise with less than zero chance of ever being fulfilled?

I can answer this completely honestly by saying: not usually.  I'm not sure that anyone with a normal background, that a non-abused or non-neglected person or non-ACoN person, could really understand that answer.  It seems that we either know something or we don't; that harm vs. non-harm is a rather black and white area with a firm dividing line down the middle.  At least it should be.

But for me, it's a complicated question.  I was well trained to doubt my own senses.  I was told from day one by master manipulators that what I thought was pain wasn't; that it was actually love.  That denying myself basic needs wasn't a bad thing; it was selfless giving and that my desire for reciprocation of that giving was nothing more than sinful and dirty selfishness.  That having expectations that I be treated with basic respect was wrong.  That my logical thoughts didn't really make any sense at all.  That what I said or heard or saw didn't actually happen, even when I knew it did, unless they said it did.

In a million different ways, they taught me that I was worthless, and that everything good about myself - anything that I could take even the slightest amount of pride in - would be used against me, over and over again, to cause me pain until I grew to hate those once good things about myself.

So, did I know the game was crooked?  No.  I just believed that I was crooked instead, just like I'd been told.

But I did find out, eventually.  I pushed back from the table, took the pittance of my wealth that was left and attempted to exit the game.  Shit got hairy then, let me tell you!

I persisted, though, because I had seen.  I knew.  Once I saw that they were dealing from the bottom of the deck and had aces stuffed up their sleeves, well, I couldn't unsee.  I couldn't unknow anymore.  So I had to fight my out, and I sustained some heavy injuries in the process, but I made it.

It wasn't until I'd gotten clear that I stopped to evaluate the people that I'd been sitting around that table with in the first place.  That's been an education.

I saw ENF most clearly first, as his crimes were the most dramatic, had that hint of flair that really made them stand out in memory.  Then I had to look at NM as she was the other complicit adult.  I looked deep enough to begin to understand that she was guilty of her own crimes as well, and though they were more under the radar and subtle than ENF's, they were just as if not more heinous.

The only people left to examine were my siblings; NSis, who is four years older than me and GCYB, two years my junior.  These were by far the hardest relationships for me to deconstruct.
They were my cohorts in childhood, my sometimes life-rafts in surviving the fucked up tsunami tidal wave of crazy (h/t Lisa) that was my 'family.'  We fought together in some of the same gunfights, you know?  We were comrades and friends and I thought that we would always have each other.

I remember saying, "They had to live through the same things that I did, so I think we have strong bonds and we'll find a way back to each other."  So I was a little bit naive.

I couldn't quite figure out where to put the sibling relationships for a long time, because I couldn't get past the fact that NSis and GCYB were victimized by the Nparents too.  I didn't want to compare our battle scars, afraid that my knowledge that I'd been the favorite whipping girl and scapegoat would be confirmed, but I knew that we'd been on the same side at the very least, right?  I kept getting stuck in the loop of knowing that they were abused too, and I didn't want to write them off because I just knew that if they could just see what I'd seen - if they could just know the truth - they'd be able to get out too.

It took a long time and a lot of hurt for me to understand that they weren't ever going to get out, that my notion that I'd blazed a trail that could be easily followed out of the dysfunction and that they'd follow just as soon as they could was false based on one idea and one idea only.

I slowly realized that they would never follow me out of the NFOO because they didn't want to leave the NFOO.  They have stayed within the drama-filled, hate-fueled crooked game in which the House will always take ALL because that is where they choose to be.  They're not like me.

I saw the truth.
I had to act.

They saw the truth.
They slammed the door on it and held a confab to determine who was to blame for letting the truth out of it's god-damned box in the first place.  (Guess who that was, come on, just guess.)  Then they set about trapping it and burying it again.

That's a fundamental difference, boys and girls, a philosophic deal breaker of epic proportions.

I used to wish that they could find their way out.
Now I understand that they see the exit plainly, but they're choosing to stay in the game.

If I live to be two hundred, I'm not going to understand it (anymore than I can understand how a normal drinker leaves half a beer on the table because it got warm or flat or why it's so hard to get sharks with little frickin' laser beams mounted on their heads or any other ridiculous thing.)  I do, however, understand that their choices are theirs and I am not responsible for either of those things.

I'm just glad that when I was presented with a choice, I chose to leave.


PS: Thanks to all the bloggers out there who've been dealing with sibling issues and posting about them; your struggles always help me to define my own.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Grateful for the Nots, Too

Between pie making and turkey prep, thought I'd pop in and leave a quick note to say:

As I spend a day tomorrow hearing about others' gratitude and talking about and thinking about how grateful I am for all that I have, I will NOT feel guilty for taking a moment to be grateful for all the people who are NOT in my life anymore, all of the bullshit that I will NOT have to deal with during the holiday, all the drama that will NOT be sitting at my table, all of the pain that will NOT cross my threshold.

I hope that you all have a lovely, trauma-free holiday and that you will cherish all the good that you do have as well as the absence of all that bad that you don't.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Purpose of Boundaries

I believe in setting boundaries.
I think that learning how to set boundaries around our homes, hearts, lives,souls, spouses and children and family of choice is a mightily important step for ACoNs to take.
Most of us weren't taught in childhood - when we should have been taught - to establish those crucial lines, buffers, stop-gaps and walls.  We weren't taught that we have a right to defend ourselves in body in spirit or mind.  We were taught that defending ourselves was tantamount to inviting increased pain, at least I was.

Learning how to defend myself and more importantly how to protect myself, has been a hard fought uphill battle of the last few years.  I've had to relearn stores of data in order to correct the system glitches that the Narcs implanted years ago.  It's involved serious contemplation of all the relationships around me and often I've been forced to the realization that some of the relationships I had - which I'd once thought were normal and healthy - were seriously messed up.

I've discontinued long term friendships with people whom I truly thought were on my side because as I've learned to control my controllables (read: ME) I've had to face the fact that many of these people were using me for my extraordinary Scapegoat Superpowers.  I've discontinued my relationship with sweet alcohol as I've become healthy enough to understand that what release I found in its tickly bubbles was both short-lived and false (plus, you know, it just plain quit working.)  I've discontinued doing the dance of the FFA - that's Fake Friends of America, you know what I'm talking about; the people who invite you to purse parties and talk about how fat they are and what diet pills work or brag about how super special their kids are and compliment you on your haircut and sharpen the knives of gossip and fakery incognito so that they can slip the blade in when you turn around to see what was on that plate of crudites.  I don't want anything to do with relationships that involve more than, oh, let's say 5% vague falsery, and only as it regards those subjects that fall under the heading of TMI, basically any topic involving the word 'discharge'. I'm okay with friends lying to me about that.

So, essentially, I have learned how to have a small amount of honest, truthful and full-disclosure relationships with other real people.  This is a good change in my life.

I have learned how to protect myself from potential relationships with dishonest, untruthful and sneakily fake relationships with fake people and their fake intentions.

Here's the thing, though.  Narcissists and those controlled by Narcs aren't either one of these types of people.  They're a whole different banana.

Now that I've taken a somewhat circuitous route around the ballpark, here's what I've come here to say tonight...

Locked doors keep out honest people, but thieves know how to pick the locks.
Fences make good neighbors, presupposing that the groups on both sides of said fence are willing to respect it.
A country's border doesn't mean anything once the rockets are launched.

When I began on my journey to learn how to protect myself, I thought that setting and holding boundaries would protect me, sure.  But I also thought that I was teaching other people how to treat me, that I was saying, "Hey, this is the line and I will only tolerate behavior that doesn't cross it," so that those others would stop crossing that line.  This is a natural thought process, I think, to a normal person.  When I drive, I stop at the line before intersections, not in the middle of them.  When I fly, I stop at the line on the floor that I'm not supposed to cross until the TSA lady waves me through.  That's what lines are for, designation of a change in the plane of existence.  Before the line, I do one thing.  After it, another.  It makes sense.

But Narcs don't respect lines, especially lines drawn by the Scapegoats, the ACoNs, the children, those whom they wish to control - basically everyone that they allow in their lives.
Locked doors, fences, unlisted numbers, space boundaries, borders: all these things are red flags to the bull-Narc's eyes.  They must possess, own, control, have it all.  I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too, and your children and your money and your spouse and your house and your time and your food and everything else you've ever had or might ever have.  That's the only boundary acceptable to a Narc; I get you all, or you get nothing.

So what have I learned?  I learned how to draw boundaries because I needed to learn how to do so in order to keep myself safe in the world.  I learned how to be clear, so clear, about what I need, what I'll accept, how I will accept it and the circumstances under which I will walk away.

I've learned that the people around me who respect these boundaries are the people in the world that I might potentially have a relationship with.  And those who cross these boundaries once are people whom I might still have a relationship with, as long as we can have an honest conversation about the line-crossing and come to an agreement that it won't happen again.

Most importantly, I've learned that the people who choose to trample my boundaries are the people that have no place in my life; they're the Narcs and the users and the abusers.  They're the lock-pickers, fence-jumpers, rocket-launchers and it's best to A) Stay the fuck away from them, B) Call the police when these people show up.

I set boundaries for me.
Anyone who chooses to cross them is doing nothing more than giving me absolute proof that they don't deserve to be in my life.


Cyber-Gut Feeling

I wrote a post a few days ago about the fact that I know that I will have more confrontations with members of the NFOO at some point in the future; specifically that I know that they will initiate more confrontations. 
About how I've done what I can to keep myself and my family safe, but expecting Narcy Narc and the Narcy Bunch to change their stripes is just ridiculous; they won't ever change.
About the fact that I'm battle ready.
And I am.

I mentioned specific evidence that convinces me of their future planned encounters; that they've tried to use social networking to contact the DD's and have posted passive-aggresive Narcy shit directed specifically at me.  I noted that my plan for the last two years in NC had been to check profiles once a month to keep my finger on that nasty-Narc pulse.  That was on 11/7.

I checked profiles this weekend - my once a month peer into the dungeon door actually pops up on an email calendar, which I find a bit funny as it reduces crawling through the sewer pipes of their lives to just one more task reminder.  I checked... guess what?!?

NSis and GCYB have private profiles now.

So I'll just say this once, and then I'll be able to move on.
NSis, GCYB or any of your minions, friends, anciliaries, flying monkeys, etc: do it.  Bust my anonymity.  I dare you.

I triple dog dare you.

I can't wait to publish your names here.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Battle Hardened and Attack Ready

I'm not a big believer in the pursuit of Why, particularly when it comes to the why of the way that Narcissists behave. I used to be. I used to be on an a quest to understand their actions, to comprehend their logic, to break all of the assaults and behaviors and manipulations down into little bite size pieces with explanation, coat them with the sweet sauce of exposition and make them more palatable for me to chew up and swallow.

I spent scads of time on this journey to understand. I wrote checks in an attempt to purchase relevance. I thinked and thought and thunk some more in my efforts to figure it and them out. The only answer I received had more to do with acceptance of their natures than understanding of their motivations; they do what they do cause they do it. But that was a different post.

In my failed Quest to understand the Holy Grail of Why They Do the Evils They Do, though, I did learn a lot. Most of what I learned concerned the How of their actions.

ACoNs are trained from day one to NotSee and to UnSee. We know the truth of most situations, in my experience, as we are generally intuitive, observant and highly attuned to the gestures and actions of those around us. These attributes are often keys to our survival. We know what's really happening, but we are forced by our Nfamily to carry those truths silently within ourselves and to keep mum. We know the truth of the evil deeds, but we are trained to protect the perpetrators from their own actions with lies. Then, in the ironic twist that is inherent to life with Narcs, we are blamed for their evil actions in the first place.

It's the definition of CrazyMaking. How does a child survive this paradox? We learn to UnSee, at least to the best of our abilities. Of course, it makes us sick and causes us great pain, but we become masters of denial.

So, when we try to get better, when we begin to walk a path we hope will bring us to healing, we often are surprised by the outright heinous, forcefully aggressive assaults that the Narcs begin to hit us with. We've been ingesting their lies for so long, making up our own lies to protect ourselves for so long that invariably at some point we began to believe them.

I remember telling myself that surely it couldn't have been as bad as I felt. They probably didn't mean it that way. I was being overly sensitive. I wasn't perfect either, and maybe I was being too hard on them.

No wonder I couldn't be honest enough to see their attacks for the declarations of war that they were; I couldn't even be honest with myself about the facts of the abuse I'd suffered at their hands. I was stripped to the bone emotionally and had no capability to understand my own actions, no less someone else's. Throw Narcissism in the mix and all bets of comprehension were off. It was all I could do to even cope.

In retrospect, though, I can see a clear pattern of escalation from the very first boundary that I drew with the N's to the final storming of the beach that resulted in No Contact.

In the movie Casino, Joe Pesci plays strongman Nicky Santoro, protector to casino veep Ace. His portrayal of the character is terrifying partly, I think, because Joe Pesci's what, five feet tall? Regardless of his small stature, no matter what he looks like or what he seems to be, though, he's a vicious, brutal killer. This is how Ace (Robert DeNiro) describes Nicky.

"You beat Nicky with fists, he comes back with a bat. You beat him with a knife, he comes back with a gun. And you beat him with a gun, you better kill him, because he'll keep comin' back and back until one of you is dead."

Set aside reason, forget about reasonableness. This is how Narc's against the wall of a boundary communicate; with an ever evolving and escalating series of attacks. Civil tools aren't going to get them to back off.

You want them to stop calling you to scream at you? They're going to call you to scream AND they're going to get someone else to call you to scream at you too. You ask them to stay away from your children? They contact those children in every way they can think of, even moreso than they've ever shown any desire to talk to them before. You change your number? They show up at your house. You call the police when they show up at your house? They show up at your work. You ask them to leave? They call your customer service hotline to complain about how you treated them while pretending to be a non-involved customer. You manage to find a way to cut them out of your life completely? They stalk you and find out who your non-involved friends are, make nice with them and try to turn them against you. You lock your doors? They peer through your windows. You move on? They hunt you down.

They do not stop. Ever.

They can go into a cycle of dismissiveness, sure. They'll move on at points, find new victims, stay away for awhile if they can find other sources of Narc Supply. Junkies can usually find a new supplier, you know (but that doesn't mean that they forget their favorite drug.) Mine did, and there have been times when I've been lulled into the deceptive calm; into believing that silence is equivalent to serenity and that maybe they've just given up, gotten over it, moved on. This isn't truth, though.

They are fully capable of changing their game, developing different tactics and strategies, and they're good at it. (This, more than anything else that I know of, speaks volumes about them. If they are capable of changing the way that they come at me to hurt me, then they are absolutely capable of changing the fact that they are hurting me. Simple math then makes it easy to deduce that the capability to change is there; willingness to do so is what's missing on their part.) I've made it hard for them to get to me, and this creates some space because they aren't willing to work that hard, at least not today. They're getting their fix somewhere else, you see, so right now at this very moment, I get a pass.

But I'm not off the hook from their attacks. I'm back-burnered, that's all. Sooner or later, I've no doubt, there will be a trigger (my money's on my oldest DD turning 18 in a couple of years) and then they will be back in force (probably coming at my daughters rather than me; predators always go for what they see as the easiest prey first.) We say in alcoholic recovery that the disease of alcoholism doesn't go away when we stop drinking, it just hangs out behind our backs doing push-ups and getting stronger, waiting for an opening to slither back into an active status. So too, I believe, are the Narcs lurking in the shadows out there, just thinkin' shit up.

I'm not a paranoid conspiracy theorist. I don't sit around detailing or stressing about the ways that they're planning to get me. I just don't ignore the truth anymore.

Almost two years ago, the DD's let me know that NSis and GCYB had been trying to contact the DD's via social networking. This was almost three years since the last time I'd spoken to either NSis or GCYB. We're talking absolute radio silence, not a phone call, a letter, nothing, nada, zilch. The DD's have always had private profiles, but we took the additional steps to systemically block NSis and GCYB (and the minions that I know of) from the DD's profiles. And I started checking NSis and GCYB's profiles once a month from a dummy profile. I didn't really want to know what was going on in their lives, but I know them pretty well. They've rewritten history to the point now that they really believe that I'm the bad guy, the catalyst of their unease and destruction. This works to my advantage in a way, because they're not careful, they stand so firmly on their false moral superiority that they don't particularly watch what they say.

I'd lay dollars to doughnuts that if they did succeed in getting a response from the DD's or making a connection somehow, they'd be crowing their success from the mountaintops. So, once a month, I check and see what kind of shit they're flinging on their cyber walls.

Two years ago just after Thanksgiving, NSis posted a whole bunch of pictures of the "family" as it exists today all dressed up and posed by the Christmas tree. And the title of one of those Norman Rockwell portraits of traditional family bliss: "FUCK YOU VANCI." Of course she used my real name.

After NM's drug induced and mismanaged near death stay at the hospital in April of last year, NSis posted a comment about how "all the family is here with us now." Then she followed it up with a clarification, "Well, all the good family." Then yet another clarification, "I didn't mean any of the extended family in [another state], just Vanci."

So, no. I'm not off the radar. The guns might be pointed in a different direction momentarily, but they didn't lose my coordinates, not by a long shot. So they'll come at me or they won't when they feel like it, and they'll escalate as they see fit. They never took my opinion or feelings into account in the first place, even when I was the glue that held their lives together, their indentured servant who spoke to each and every one of them every day. They're sure as fuck not going to take my boundaries or wishes into account now.

Just like Nicky Santoro, they'll keep coming at me, one way or another.

That's dark, isn't it? Frightening, even.

But guess what?

They can't touch me.

I've done the work to break the cycle, and there isn't a single person on the face of the planet that I care about who doesn't know exactly who the Narcs in my NFOO are, and exactly what they do. There also isn't a single soul I care about who doesn't know exactly who I am, what I've been through and what I stand for. They may have rewritten history in their minds, but I've got the facts, the proof and witnesses galore of what and who they really are, what it really is and who I really am.

I have truth on my side, and I stand ready for anything they can throw.

Come at me, bros.

And we'll just see who ends up in the (metaphorical) hole in the desert.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Narc Attacks

A few of my blogger friends are currently under attack from the Narcs in their life and as a result I've spent some time today thinking about and remembering what that felt like.

It's been a long time since I had to endure the full-frontal assaults.  I disconnected long enough ago from the NFOO that we don't have many paths that cross anymore on a regular basis (i.e. I don't work with people who plan BBQs with the N's,) and what brief small town encounters we do have are largely non-events because I could give zero fucks about them.  That's right, you heard that right; how many fucks do I give?  Zero.

 My Narcs are the kind that really don't want to work too hard, you see?  They came at me fast and furious for the first year, but my reactions at that time were soft and shaky and they no doubt knew that if they kept it up long enough, I'd break.  Go back to my lifetime long pattern of giving in.

If they were betting people, I can assure you that that they went all in on my coming crawling back, repentant, to the hearth of the Clan.

Losers, then.

But after it became apparent that I was out, truly out, and that their old bag of tricks wasn't pulling me out of the hat, well.  They quit.  Largely.
A couple of half-hearted attempts were made, primarily when there was an out of the ordinary happening that they felt they could use: NM was hospitalized.  They called.  (And I went, something that I don't regret as it was a complete and total validation of the rightness of my decision to leave in the first place.)  But really, each of the random attempts to reconnect on their part were nothing more than a feeler.  As soon as they realized that I still wasn't going back to the old ways of game playing, well, they quit again.  Which I'm sure works out well for them: I'm a lot easier to blame when I'm not there being all pesky with my truth-telling.

Really, in the last few years, these attempts have seemed laughable to me.  They were pathetic stabs in the dark.  Nothing more.  They wanted the old, usable me.  They didn't want the new and improved version and they were just so fucking befuddled when they finally figured out that the version of Vanci they were looking for didn't exist anymore.  It was like watching the emotional equivalent of a Three Stooges routine where they're trapped in a dark room and trying to find the door.  They trip over everything, especially themselves.

But at the beginning, when every knock on the door, every phone call signaled another assault, I was terrified.  It's scary to have another human being stomp all over your safe places!  Especially when this safe place that you've so carefully created with boundaries and walls and double-chained and barred locked doors has taken you your entire lifetime to build and it's the only safe place you've ever been able to create for yourself.  And it cost buckets of blood just to build it.

And it's confusing to have to go to such lengths to keep out people who've spent their entire lives convincing you that this pain they're delivering on a daily basis isn't actually pain; that you don't know what you feel, that you just need to listen to them because they know what's better for you than you do and that if this thing they're giving you and calling love really feels like awfulness, well that's because there's something wrong with you and it's your fault anyway.

Everyone wants to be loved by their parents.  Everyone.

It's a hard thing to do, realizing that they don't love.  I didn't forget the 'us.'  They don't love. Period.

They spend forever teaching us that we are unlovable, that we are the reason that their love doesn't work, that we are responsible for the bad and never provide the good, that it is our job to provide in the first place and that we have failed before we start.

But it doesn't really have anything to do with us anyway, ever.
It's about them.

They can't love, or they won't love.  Either way, they don't love.

So take heart, dear friends.
In creating safety for ourselves and learning what we need, that we have a right to want it and taking action to ensure it, we are doing right by ourselves.

I've said to my DD's and some of the young ladies that I mentor often that I know this to be absolute truth:  I ALWAYS HAVE A RIGHT TO DEFEND MYSELF.  Always.
And so do you.

Sending lots of pixie dust into the ACoNverse tonight.


Thursday, November 1, 2012


There have been so many awesome posts up lately.  From the bloggers that were here when I arrived on this scene to the newly arrived, man, we're throwing some seriously good writing, great ideas and fan-fucking-tastic conversation around this ACoNverse.

I hear us talking about:
Overcoming fear.
Re-thinking doubts.
Standing tall.
Reaching out.
Our right to be heard.
Protecting ourselves.
Changing our minds.
Sharing our souls.
Spiritual journeys.

I hear us saying these things with:
Hard-won experience.
Correctly directed anger.

I hear us saying that we are:
Stronger than we thought we were.
Able to take care of ourselves.
Smart enough to know better.
Willing to break our chains.
Wiser than we should be.
Willing to pass it on.
Hopeful for our futures.
Accepting of our reflections.
Gentle enough to help.
Kinder than kisses.

I hear a group of people who were intentionally and maliciously broken down to lower than low, laid flat by evil people, forced into subservience and humiliated at every turn, beaten to a pulp and left isolated and alone inches from death of one sort or another.

I hear that same group of people reaching out to each other and the world at large and speaking in their true voices, calling out to the stars and sea and saying, like all the little Whos in Whoville, We are here! We are here! We are here!

We talk so much about the Narcs.  We detail their offenses to the most minute fragment.  We re-live the power that they had over us, the horrors that they inflicted on us, the pain that they caused us and their shadows that still lurk waiting for us in so many dark alleys.  We have to, we speak out so that others can know.

We talk, too, about getting away from them, in inches or in leaps, and the how and the steps of that process.  We talk about surviving, cherishing, thriving, feeling, loving, living and the ways that all those states improve when we are Narc-limited, Narc-less, Narc-free.

They tried to make us theirs,all theirs; readily available for their consumption and soul-killing fulfillment.  And when they couldn't, they tried to make us monsters.  And in doing so, they discounted our strength and thereby created something that they fear.

To their dismay, their best efforts only served to create truth-tellers, light-seekers, hope-spreaders, joy-sharers, memory-keepers, path-walkers, precious human beings who will never be defeated.  We are not to be trifled with, we are stronger than strong, smarter than smart and I just have to say out loud that after jumping around and reading so many of the awesome posts and comments that have hit these pages in the last week or so that I've come to one conclusion.

We, my friends, in all our different incarnations, are some Bad Mother Fuckers.
And I love that about this place.
As TW says, BLOG ON!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Explanatory Style

In the comments of my Disinfecting a Poisoned Well post, blogger jessie asked me if I still had the lists of questions that my counselor asked me to ask and answer before, during and after conversations with my Crazymakers when I was in the long process of disentangling from the web of obligation of my NFOO.

It's been awhile now, and that period of time was so chaotic due to the stress and complications that I had to go through to come out the other side into NC that I've largely forgotten details.  New day, new tools.  I went looking, though, and found some very interesting notes and writing.  I even found the fourteen page, handwritten missive of condemnation that NSis sent to me about three months after I declared that I would not speak with NM outside of a counselor's office (which, of course, in CLASSIC Clan style, meant that I had also declared the same boundary with everyone else in the family.)  That'll be a post for another day, though.

I didn't find all of the lists - I'm not a saver for a lot of reasons, but the main one is that when I reached the point of doneness, I was well done.  Blackened, sooty and smoking.  Burnt to a crisp AND bloody as hell (a l'il bit o' Pulp Fiction for ya there, racefans.)  When I hit the point of being done with the Bad Uns, I was done baby done, and I got rid of most of the shit that reminded me of them, including the letters that I didn't ever want to read again.  Some of these I burned, page by bloody page.  It felt good, it was a ritual to mark the passing of an era, the hope of a new start.  I felt cleaner when the nasty baubles were gone.

I kept some things; pictures, mostly, of the family in falsely happier seeming times, that live in a picture box in a deep, dark closet and that I haven't even thought of in ages.  I kept the letter from NSis because I'd thought that at some point I would want to respond to it, not necessarily to her but to myself.  Who knows, maybe I still will.

What I did find of my notes, though, was my scribbled explanation of explanatory style.  This was a massively helpful tool to me in beginning to separate my thoughts from my training, so I'll outline my version of it here.  It was a bit of a revelation to me at the time, I'll admit.  Looking back on it, it seems so simple, so logical, but at the time it was an epiphany.  Which says a lot, I think, about how ever loving hard it is to break out of a destructive way of life that's been so ingrained from such an early age.  I mean, this stuff just all makes sense, right?  But I'd believed differently under the influence and pressure of the Narcs, so I needed for someone else to explain it to me.
Here's what I understand this concept to be.

Explanatory style is simply the manner in which I explain something to myself, my way of thinking about an event and understanding it.

An example of two different types of explanatory style:
DH and I buy a new car.  It's shiny.  He says to me, "Vanci, when you go to the store, make sure that you park far away from everyone else.  That way, no one will park too close and scratch the paint on the new car."  I go to the store and park a reasonable distance away from everyone else, say two parking spaces from the nearest car.  Tralalalala I do my shopping.  I come back to the car and see that my car is now surrounded by cars AND there's a dent in the door of my shiny new car.

Style 1:
I am so stupid, I can't believe that I didn't park farther away.  DH is going to be mad at me.  I shouldn't have done this, I never do anything right.  He told me to park far away, why did I think that I was far enough, I was lazy.  This is all my fault.
Style 2:
Who the hell parks that close to another person's car?  I can't believe that somebody dented my car, what an awful thing for someone else to do.  I am within the boundaries of my parking space and this person in this other car has edged up close to me and obviously dented my car.  I have a right to be compensated for this and I will take action to make sure that I am.  I will take action to protect my asset.

This particular example is about fault.  Whose fault is it that the car is dented?

I was raised to believe that I was responsible for ... well, everything.  Especially bad things.  I don't recall any specific examples of the Nparents blaming me for bad weather, but I would not have been surprised if they did.  Whatever went wrong, regardless of what it was, I was at fault.  And if a child is told something about themselves enough, they will begin to believe it.  So naturally, I believed that I was at fault.

My explanatory style, my way of interpreting and understanding the world around me, was all sorts of screwed up, you see?
The person who perpetrates a crime or an offense is always the person who is at fault, never the victim.  I know this now, but I didn't then.  I had to stop and consciously go through every single step of an incident or a thought and learn how to explain it to myself in order to stop believing that I was at fault by default.

For years I would say, "I was sexually abused as a child."  Think about the structure of that sentence for a second.  Who and what are contained in that sentence?  Me, crime, me.  Victim, abuse, victim.  Who's missing from that sentence?  Only the person responsible.  After years of re-thinking, I changed that sentence in my vocabulary.  Now, I say this: "My father sexually abused me when I was a child."  Offender, crime, victim of said offender and crime.  It's a little thing, just a few words, but it was definitely a change in identification of fault for me.  Why was I leaving the offender out in the first place?  For me, it's indicative of how I thought about myself; responsible in some way for the crime itself.  It feels better to put the person responsible for it there, in his proper place; it's more true.

So, thinking of my explanatory style, prior to a scheduled phone call or meeting with any of the N's, I would ask myself these types of questions:
What specific action am I trying to accomplish?
And I'd write it down in simple words like this; do not call me.
(I was always tempted to elaborate, to put my reasons down in writing, but I discovered that this was counterproductive as I began to realize that it didn't matter what my reasons were because they'd only twist them anyway.  Much later in the process, I learned that I didn't have to give a reason, that I had a right to ask for what I was asking for, but like I said, that was much later.)

What response am I expecting?
Again, simple words, write it down:  agreement.
(Aaaaaannnnnnnddddd, this is the point in the process where I began to learn, again, later on, to stop and rethink.  Because I eventually learned that my expectations  - of sane, normal, civil responses were the point at which I might as well throw in the towel.  But early in the process, before I truly understood that I was sticking my hand into a den of scorpions and expecting them to invite me in for high tea rather than sting me, I really did expect such things as agreement, discourse, to be listened to.)

How will I know that I have accomplished what I am expecting?
Simple words, write it down: NM will say, "Yes, I will not call you anymore."
(Two guesses how that always went, but I can guarantee you that you'll only need one.)

I'd go through this process and I'd feel good about going into a conversation; grounded, centered, well prepared.

Of course, I was dealing with Narcissists, so the conversation almost always took a turn for a bad neighborhood around the time that I had the audacity, the sheer nerve, to let the Nfamily member know that I had a boundary or an expectation.  As DH said early and often, "How long are you going to keep expecting sane responses from insane people?"  But it was a process that I had to go through in order to even see the insanity.

After the conversation, I would ask and answer things like this:

Why didn't you accomplish what you'd set out to?
Simple words, write it down: She refused and told me that she'd call me whenever she wanted to and that I had no right to tell her not to as I was her child and "mothers never give up on their children."
(See how that works?  I was wrong for asking for space, I had no right to ask for space and the end result of my asking for space was two-fold; I would be given less space and it would be known that I was making her chase me, which she would translate to anyone willing to listen as - Oh my, look at what my daughter is doing to me and look at how hard I have to work... Woe is me, woe is me.)

How did the response you received differ from what you'd expected?
Simple words, write it down: It was the complete opposite.  She made it my fault for asking.
(Because that, in my opinion is the strongest weapon in most Narc's arsenal; they make any sane or healthy thing that we ask for appear to be wrong, wrong, wrong and hurtful of them.  They turn it around on us in a heartbeat, and they have the advantage because they are, after all, the people who set us up to fail by giving us a faulty explanatory style circuit board in the first place, so we are almost hard-wired to believe that it's our fault anyway.  All they have to do is hint and we fall in line to shoulder the blame.)

What would you do differently?
Simple words, write it down: ________________.
(I'm leaving this blank because I can't stand the thought of what I would have written down here.  The reality of the question is so clear to me know, looking back.  I couldn't have done anything differently. It wouldn't have mattered.  I'm sure at the time, I wrote something like "Don't get emotionally upset."  Or, "Have a third party on the phone with me."  Or some other futile thought or tool that I hoped beyond hope at the time would have kept the conversation on the right track.  But I know now that NOTHING would have changed these conversations.)

So I'd go through the process, usually repeatedly, and I'd take my little Q and A sheets to my counselor's office and we'd go through it.  I'd expected, of course, like the well-trained little monkey I still was in some ways (and I say that as endearingly as it is possible to say,) that these questions would help me to focus the conversation, to stay on the high road, to respond rather than react.  I'd expected that my approach and actions would have any effect on the conversation whatsoever.

What I learned is that the only way to have a nice, civil conversation with a Narcissist is to not have one at all, or possibly to draw a resemblance of the N's face on a sock, slip it over my hand and have a nice, civil conversation with the sock puppet while pretending that it was NM or ENF or NSis or GCYB.  (Ok, so I didn't really do that, but I'm confident that you understand my point.)

I did, however, learn some very valuable things about ME.
I learned that I am responsible for my end of the conversation, regardless of the other person's reaction.
I learned how to identify what it is that I need and will be asking for.
I learned what my limits are and how to set them with other people.
I learned that the importance of my setting boundaries was not contingent upon others honoring them.
I learned that I would never get anywhere talking to the N's in my life using reasonable tools.

Eventually, I learned that it was pointless to have these or any other conversations with the N's in my life, and MOST importantly, I learned that the deterioration of those conversations and relationships was not my fault, even though I'd always thought it was before.

That's made the biggest difference for me.  It's only one tool, but understanding and changing my explanatory style was helpful to me in beginning to understand that 'it' wasn't always my fault by default.  And led me to wondering why I thought that in the first place.  And that led me to understanding that this was just one more area in which I'd been abused.  And that led to the imperfect, flawed person that's writing this today, but also to my freedom in understanding that I can change the way I see the world at any time, and that I don't necessarily have to understand the why of a thing in order to know that I don't want it in my life.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Disinfecting a Poisoned Well

This is what DH and I have spent the entire weekend doing.  Literally.
The apt metaphor of healing from a NFOO did not escape me.

The well
About a month ago, we started to notice a distinct... ah... odor in our water supply.  Yeah, let's just stick with 'distinct odor' as a description.  Ahem.
We live in a rural area and have a well, so I've had some experience with troubles of this kind before.  Typically, what I've come across are various mineral deposits or issues with rusty pipes, etc.  There are various treatments - like water softeners - to remove the minerals.  I thought this is the type of problem we were dealing with.  I assumed that DH would tell me we needed to look into getting a water softener.  Given what I knew, this was not an unreasonable assumption.
I remember realizing that there were significant problems in my NFOO.  I thought that I would be able to draw boundaries, have honest conversations, state what my needs and desires were and that we would fix the problem together.  I assumed that the members of my NFOO were reasonable people and that we would find a way to improve communication and fix it.

The well
About a week after the distinct odor appeared and did not go away, I asked DH what we needed to do. I thought it was odd that he hadn't said anything, but figured that he hadn't smelled it.  He often comments that his "sniffer's broke," then pretends to be a redneck and hee-haws while sniffing around comically.  (He worked with a lot of chemicals when he was younger and doesn't seem to be able to smell much.)  He said that we needed to have our well-water tested.  I went to our local health department, got the materials and learned when I could drop off a sample of our water, which as it turns out is only once a week.  We waited for the appropriate day and then turned in the water sample and were told that we would be mailed results.  I assumed that we'd get a test back telling us that we had excess of mineral X and that we'd figure out how to treat that excess of mineral X.
After spending some time trying to improve communication between the members of the NFOO and myself, nothing had improved.  I began to seek different tools to work on the problem.  I sought counseling, and when I talked to my therapist for the first time about what was happening in my NFOO and how it was beginning to effect me, he began by suggesting some simple tests.  for one, he asked me to identify a boundary that I needed to set with the NFOO and to go through the process that I would take in setting that boundary.  We decided that I would talk to my mother and father alone and I would ask them to respect boundary X.   I assumed that I would have a civil conversation with them and we would identify a plan for implementing boundary X.

The well
About three weeks after we identified the distinct odor, last Monday, in fact, which was just not the best damn day, we received the test results back.  The results were not good.  Our well had a bacterial problem.  This is not what I'd expected, this was a horse of an entirely different color.  I wasn't sure what I was dealing with anymore.  I was afraid.
My talk with my mother and father did not go as planned.  The were not receptive to my new boundary.  They interrupted me while I was speaking, and then changed my words and threw them back at me.  The accused me of things.  They said that I was being unreasonable.  They ignored my husband and told me that I had always been 'difficult.'  They completely discounted my boundary.  And after they left, I received a nasty, screaming phone call from my sister, accusing me of trying to hurt all of 'them.'  I was suddenly on the outside of 'them.'  This is not what I'd expected, this was an entirely different animal than I'd thought it was.  I wasn't sure what I was dealing with anymore.  I was afraid.

The well
I asked DH if he knew what we needed to do, how we identified what kind of bacteria this was, where it came from, how to stop it, how to fix it.  He said that we needed to disinfect the well.  He said that this would require chemicals, like bleach.  He asked me to research online (something he's not good at,) and see if I could find specifications for how much would be required and any kind of instructions to accomplish this.  I said that I would.
I went back to my counselor, emotionally battered and bruised.  I asked him how I could fix the problem with my family, how I could get them to respect my (by now plural) boundaries that I'd had to draw.  I asked him how I could feel safe again, and how I could not be afraid.  He asked me to keep doing the work and stay in the process.  I said that I would.

The well
In doing the research, I found that I would need to know the depth of the well in order to determine how much bleach to use to disinfect it.  At this point in my mind, this was still a fairly simple process, mind you.  DH happened to be home and I wasn't, so I called him and asked him how deep the well was.  He told me that he'd have to open the well casing and drop a tape measure to be sure, but that he thought it was about twenty-five feet.  I thought that this was odd, because I was looking at a graph that showed depths up to five hundred feet.  Still, I figured that he knows more about wells, has more experience with wells than I do, so I waited for him to call me back.  Surely, I thought, it can't be only twenty-five feet.
In asking these questions of my counselor and going through the process of identifying specific issues that needed to be addressed in my relationship with my NFOO, I began to discover that there were some connections weren't what they'd seemed.  I started to redefine actions that I'd previously seen as 'love' or 'family' and I began to wonder if I really knew what I was dealing with.  My counselor gave me specific lists of questions that I should ask myself about my relationships with all the members of the NFOO while I was interacting with them and after I'd interacted with them.  He asked me to take ten minutes after any phone call with any of them to write down five words that described how I felt.  I thought this was odd, because I didn't see how identifying how I felt after I talked to them would help me to get them to stop violating my boundaries.  Still, I figured that he knows more about family systems, has more experience with family systems than I do, so I agreed to follow the instructions. Surely, I thought, this won't tell me what I need to know.

The well
I'd always thought that we had a drilled well, which was the only type of well I knew about.  This is a hole drilled into the ground a long way, several hundred feet I thought, with a pipe jammed all that way down into the water table.  There's a pump at the top to pull all that cool, clear, mother nature filtered water to the surface and pump it into our home, right?
I'd always thought that my family made me feel good about myself.  Sure, they were a little demanding sometimes, but they couldn't help that.  It's just they came off like that sometimes.  They were basically good and loyal and loved me, they just weren't very good at giving me the space I needed.  They depended on me too much because I was too dependable, but I'd had depend on them before too.  These people were my family and that meant that they loved me, right?

The well
This was not the case, I learned.  Our well is not a drilled well.  Our well is in our basement, well, below our basement, technically.  Our well was dug using a backhoe.  Our well is accessed via a giant, four foot tall concrete box with a lid on it that opens onto a twenty-five foot deep hole in the ground with concrete cylindrical forms for walls.  There's mud twenty five feet down there.  This was not the mythical crystal clear water flowing from under the earth to nourish my family's health.  This was a hole in the ground in our basement.  My illusions were shattered.
The way I felt after those phone calls was not the way I had thought I would feel.  My family did not make me feel what I anticipated; loved, happy, safe.  My family made me feel: dark, angry, frustrated, cold, helpless, powerless, stupid, confused, sick, bad.  This was not the cherished bosom of the family crest that I'd been sold on.  This was hurtful, this was abuse.  My hopes were shattered.

The well
I bought bleach on my way home from work.  I assumed that we would pour bleach into the well in the correct amount, run the bleach water through all the taps and wait the prescribed 12-24 hours.  I was upset that I would have to go a day without a shower, but willing to make the sacrifice.
I learned that I did not want to feel the way that my family made me feel after those calls.  I resolved that I would not let them treat me that way, that I would not let them make me feel that way anymore. I decided that I'd had enough and that I wouldn't be letting them talk to me in such a manner the next time.  I knew that I would probably take some heat, maybe even be hung up on a couple of times, but I was willing to do so in order to hold my ground.

The well
DH laughed when I brought the bleach home after work on Tuesday and asked him if he was ready to do this disinfecting thing.  "No, babe," he said, "we have to get more tools and we'll need more time."  We had to obtain pumps, I was told, to get all of the water out of the well and remove whatever might be causing the problem.  "What could be causing it?" I asked, thinking that we were talking about a rusty pipe or a crack with mold in it or something like that.  I was a little dumbfounded wondering what could be causing the problem.
All of my efforts to safeguard myself were summarily shut down.  I was being a spoiled brat, I was told, and I had no right to ask for what I was asking for.  I would NOT be granted what I was asking for.  The phone began to ring constantly.  Instead of backing off on demands and honoring my boundaries, there were new demands, more demands and now the demands began to be accompanied by snide remarks and rude comments that I hadn't heard before.  I was dumbfounded by how I was being treated and couldn't understand why.

The well
Yesterday, DH began the process to pump out the well.  He soon realized that he would need a particular kind of ladder, and that the only way to get said ladder would be to ask for help from my father-in-law.  FIL can't pass up a project without joining in, so he brought the ladder and came to help.  I asked him in passing if he thought they'd have to pump it completely dry for us to clean it up.
He told me that we'd certainly have to get it all the way down to the ground in order to clear up the problem, or, in his words, "To get whatever critter is in there out, you know."
There was a dead animal in our well.  Holy hell.  Holy carp.  Holy fuck.  Our water was full of rotting carcass.  Fuck me, that's a nightmare.
The longer the situation deteriorated with the NFOO, the more crazy calls I had, the farther we/they tumbled down the rabbit hole, the more I reached out to the obviously sane people around me.  They let me know that they were there to help and they would do anything they could for me.  I asked them if they thought I would be okay, if it would be okay, if I'd 'get my family back.'  They began to tell me that from what they'd seen, I was being abused.  I began to realize that the issues were lifelong and deep.  My family was, indeed, out to get me.  They would never, ever, ever stop pushing and hurting and shaming me.  And they were hurting (in some ways already) or going to hurt my DDs in exactly the ways they had and were hurting me.  Holy hell.  Holy carp.  Holy fuck.  My family was full of dysfunction and narcissism and the chosen perpetration of that on other people.  Fuck me, that's a nightmare.

The well
We worked to remove the... ah... atrocity.  We pumped in new water and added bleach.  We ran the clean water and the disinfectant through every linear foot of pipe, faucet or fixture in the house.  We allowed it to sit and work away at the germs.
This atrocity as well has - after much work - been removed.  I've spent years cleaning house and getting rid of the parasites, germs and other rank shit they left behind.

The well
The water is now clean.  I'm glad it's clean.  I like the idea that it's clean and free of poison.  That's great.  But now that I know what was wrong in the first place, we're never exposing our family to the risk of such contamination again.  The filtration system will be installed by the end of next month.
This well too is now clean, at least on my end.  There is no more poison allowed to enter my system through that portal, because I installed a shutoff valve and locked it shut a while ago.  I won't be exposed to that risk of contamination again.

The moral of these true stories?
If you're not absolutely, positively 100% sure that it's good for you, don't drink the water.
Take it from someone who knows, now.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Who You Let Treat You Like That

Today's earlier post and all of the comments and back and forth got me thinking.  Uh oh.  No, really, it's a good thing.  I felt that it was necessary to delete some ill intended comments from an anonymous commenter; particularly I found these comments offensive because she/he was calling other commenters names.  I see no reason to call the people who've taken the time to put their precious energy into speaking here in blogland names.  It's rude, it's unproductive and I don't like it.

So I deleted and I'd do it again.  I've posted a comment policy that summarizes that I will delete commenters who choose to abuse or attack other commenters on this blog.  I feel strongly about this.  Thanks to Q's Sis, vicariousrising, Jonsi and Upsi for discussing this with me in comments.

Most of the other bloggers that I know moderate their comments and I think that could help to avoid the kind of speed attack that was happening today, but I don't want to moderate.  I'm not interested in being tethered to a comment moderation role and it's generally been my experience that those who want to comment do so primarily in helpful, compassionate, empathetic and interesting input.  I'd rather not have those comments sitting in an inbox until I finally remember to check it while in the middle of dinner or on the phone or happily driving home from work. Maybe I'm idealistic, too, and really want to give people the benefit of the doubt.

Most of the other bloggers I know wouldn't have deleted some of the comments that I did today, and I think that's just fine for them.  I respect that decision to let it ride.

What I thought about today though, was something that DH said to me while I was embroiled in the pre-fight warm up round to my extracting myself from the NFOO.  I see a lot of talk about taking the Red Pill, and I think that's an apt metaphor to discovering the truth about our narcissistic families of origin.  My experience was a gradual Wake Up, and that's what I've always identified it as.

The beginning of my realizations that something was very, very wrong with my 'family' happened in September 2006.  I still played my role and did what was expected, you know just giving up all of my time, money, self, like that.  But I was developing this sneaking suspicion that I wasn't quite as invested as I had been.  I started to question things, first to myself, then out loud.  Just little things, like why everyone in my family assumed that all of my nicer-than-theirs (and harder earned) possessions were always to be available to them.  Why it was okay for ENF to borrow my truck and bring it back dirty and with the fuel gauge on E.  Why I not only was expected to make the holiday dinner, but to do it outside of my own home AND pay for the entire thing.  Why, when I asked for partial reimbursement for the food, I was suddenly the bad guy.  Just a few mini rebellions, a few ground tremors... but they were building.

I made my Stand in January 2007, and that's when it all blew the fuck up.  I've written reams about that period of time and what came after, the brief incidents that I've had with flirting at contact and the couple of points of actual contact.

But today I am thinking about that period of time between my first realizations of the Crazymaker Clan's true nature and the solidification of their role as such in my mind and heart.

DH was with me through all of my questioning and all of my bumbling through the horror of finally beginning to understand who they really were, what they were really like and how I was really being treated.  It was rough.  Hot asphalt on bare feet rough.  Needles under fingernails rough.  They fucking launched an all out full scale war against me.  And I didn't know how to react, I wasn't sure what to do with this new attack or with my new feelings.  For awhile, I just stood there and took it.

I got help and started picking up tools, but I was outgunned and outnumbered.  I started to draw boundaries, super broad and weak ones, but they'd violate them right away, and I'd just stand there too caught up in wondering why they'd do that to be able to defend myself while they violated more and more, hit me harder and harder.  I'd draw another one and the cycle would start over.

NSis got into the habit of calling me to berate me and scream at me about what I was doing to her by making myself more unavailable, how I was killing our mother, that I was ruining my daughters' lives, that I was cuckolding my husband (they NEVER would admit that he was anything but controlled by me, that he could possibly have had a say in any of the decisions to limit and eventually end contact, cause, you know, blame is best heaped on the scapegoat and all.)  We're talking about me listening to her rant and rave over the phone for such long periods of time that I'd have plug in my cell phone at the wall charger and stand there leashed to the wall while she laid into me for huge chunks of time, hours even.

I look back at that now and I think, what the fuck?  Why did I answer the phone?  I knew what was coming; the song never changed except that it got longer and meaner.

And DH would get so mad at me for that, he'd be just livid when that phone rang and I answered it.  DH is a nice guy.  When I say that he was livid, I mean that he would turn red in the face and leave the room.  But that's LIVID for DH.  And I, so well trained to be the peacekeeper, soul giver, make everything better for everyone girl, I'd find him eventually (once I'd been released from NSis or NM's or ENF's or GCYB's rage, because eventually they took turns making these calls,) I'd go find DH and say, "I'm sorry, I just have to answer or they'll keep calling.  What if something was wrong and I didn't answer.  Blah, blah, blah..."
And DH finally said to me, "Vanci, you don't let anyone else in the entire world treat you like that.  If I treated you like that, we'd be divorced in a minute.  If your boss treated you like that, you'd walk out on your job.  If a stranger on the street treated you like that, you'd take them OUT.  Why do you let those horrible people treat you like this?"

That was a big part of my wake up process, a significant piece of the manner of the dysfunction clicked into place for me.  I wish I could say that I immediately took his words to heart and got the hell away, but it took awhile still.  Sigh.  I did get away, though, and that's what counts, and I have carried DH's wisdom in my pocket ever since.

I won't be berated for being myself, for having an idea, for having an opinion, for telling the truth, for speaking up or speaking out, for liking or disliking something or someone, for wondering about something or questioning something, for having a heart or for being cold, for my eye color or my word choice or my thoughts.  I just will not allow it for myself or for the people who are visiting my online 'home' here.

Question me?  Yes.  Challenge my thoughts or intentions?  Yes.  Make a suggestion? Yes.  Differ in your view?  Absofreekinlutely.  Argue a point?  I'm game.

Berate or shame or call me names?  Well, if we were face to face I'd tell you that those are gravel-kickin' words.  Or I'd walk away.  I will defend myself, one way or another.  I'm working on the expression of anger thing, so I'll choose to delete and end it rather than to engage.

And that's what my comment policy's about.  Be a human bean and remember that the rest of us are too; act accordingly and appropriately to that fact.  Or... buh-bye.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Un-Follow Me

I have a two-fold desire that drives me to visit and hang out in blogland.
First, I want to tell my story and talk about who I am, what I've been through and what I go through now.  I want to write about recovery from Narcs and all of the steps I have taken, do take and will take on my path of healing.

Second, I want to read what you have to say about your recovery and your experiences, to learn from you and to give you an audience and to be part of something that I think is a wonderful healing tool.

I sort of think of it like a two way street, with traffic headed in both directions. I try to go to every post by readers on my reading list, I try to follow back the URLs that refer to me in my stats and I click through on my 'followers' icons to get to your posts and look at what you have to say because I am interested in what you have to say.  I value your voices.

I keep my blog public because I'm an open and giving person and I don't have anything to hide.  If you choose to keep yours private, that's fine with me.  But if you've followed me and I've followed you and you happen to be one or two of the people embroiled in the recent argument that has just been talked to fucking death, and the end result or decision that you've made is to make your blog private and NOT invite me to it, great.  I'm fine with your decision to do so, and I wish you all the best, truly, I hope that you find what you need to, learn what you need to and heal how you need to.  I'm not so pompous as to think that I need to be a part of your life if you have chosen not to have me in it.  I'm happy for you that you're making decisions based on what you need.

I'd like to make a small point, though.  I don't really care if you see my shit posted here - that's why it's public and that's why I don't moderate comments, even to protect my anonymity.  Anybody can see what I put out here.  If you're going to act like this, though, if you're going to decide that I am somehow the enemy or on the other side of an argument that you've created, to the point that you're privatizing your blog and not inviting me, then un-fucking follow me.  I find it creepy that your icons are still there.

I'm posting this here because I have no other way to get through to you unless you invite me to, and frankly, homey don't play that.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Taking What's Good

Oh, my heart broke a little bit today.

I was all sorts of wrapped up yesterday in my real world life and its little quirks.  I was dealing with a lot of anger at the NFOO working up inside of me to a nearly unbearable level.  So I stayed up late and I came here and I wrote it out.  I told the truth about what was happening and what I was feeling and I did it with no fear of judgment or reprisal because I don't have fear that any of you are going to stop me in the grocery store when I am unprepared to face the reality of the abuses that I've overcome and ask me about it.

Really, that's why I blog.  I need to say this stuff to people who can understand and empathize but who are not so close to my life that they're going to make the concert I'll be attending to hear my DD's sing about my survival of the NFOO when I need for it to be about listening to my daughters sing.  I tell it on a more personal level to the people in my chosen real world family and circle of friends, but there are some things that I need to talk about that I can't or don't have the opportunity to say face to face.

Does it help other people, my writing it out here?  I don't know.  I hope so, because I hope that my writing these experiences doesn't create indifference and I can't stomach the thought that my writing would hurt anyone looking for help .  If it does help, I'm glad.  If it doesn't, I'm sorry.  But really, I'm here for me.  I'm here because I have words to use and it's been a big lesson in my experience that Shrek was right; "Better out than in."

I operate - as I think all mothers and fathers and those responsible for children should - within a web of responsibilities.  My oldest DD came home today and told me about a discussion that her sociology class had concerning the role of mothers and how they came to the conclusion that mothers seem to always end up with at least two full time jobs; work at work and more work at home.  It was cute and funny that she and her classmates felt as if they'd discovered an absolute truth all on their own.  (Cause, yeah, I wasn't aware of that. LOL.)  So, I'm busy and I spend a relatively tiny fraction of my life online.  An hour a day, basically, tops.

I miss a lot.  And I totally missed all of the hash slinging, divisive shit going down on some of the blogs on my reading list and some of the other blogs I visit until just a few hours ago.
Can I just tell you that so much of what I saw, well, it just hurt my heart.  I've stayed as far out of the fight as I can, and here's why.  I have no quarrel with anyone looking to heal from abuse, unless they become an abuser themselves, which is in turn, proof that someone's not really looking to heal from abuse at this very moment.  We're all in different places in recovery and our own experiences before and during our journeys determine how we act, react, respond, behave and speak.  That's cool by me.  I believe that we all get to a jumping off point of healing by different paths, and it doesn't matter to me how we get there: it matters to me that we DO get there.  That's the place that I dig, that waking up to a healing path place and the paths that we choose after that moment.  That's what charges my batteries, the story of how we heal.

 As part of my path, this blog is the place that I come to work it out and speak unhindered, this is my spitballing arena, ladies and gentlemen, where I get to just... fucking... spit it out.  And then I see what I learn.

That's how I approach your blogs, too.  I observe, contribute if I think I can, and I gauge my reactions and responses and determine what I like about them, what I don't and then I come up with a plan as to how I'm going to move forward.  In my writing, in my recovery, in my life.  I come here to bounce myself off of your ideas and experience and to put mine out there if you'd like to do the same, and then I take it all down to my heart and I use all that power of introspection and character I've developed to work on me.  Or I don't, if I don't like what you have to say then I pass or I stop and I examine why it's making me uncomfortable and I determine if I need to change myself. If I start thinking that I need to change you, then I'm taking myself off of the path of recovery and healing and I stop.  Turn myself around.  Back to the beginning of the hokey pokey.

Cause I want to be better than I am, you know?
I've become a much, much better person than I was ever allowed by the evil people in my life to believe that I could be.  And I've done it by spending hours of my life looking into my own soul and deciding to shore up this support or patch up that crack in the interior drywall.  You've helped me to do that.  If I've helped you too, I'm honored that voicing my experience could do that for you.  If it hasn't and you've read my blog and said, "Meh, not for me," and moved on along, I'm cool with that, too.  I'm not perfect and I wouldn't want to be, nor do I think that such a thing even exists.  But I'm making progress, and that - for me - is the attainment of a goal.

I've made friends here, and I like that.  I've been a friend here and I like that too.  It's nice to talk to people who've had similar experiences and to hear their take.  I've even avoided a couple of mistakes regarding the N's in my life because I've listened to you talk about yours and I've been able to learn from you.  I believe that knowledge is ALWAYS a good thing.  Bottom line; if you've walked down any part of a path that's similar to mine and have something to say about it, I'll listen.

Whether you're in the middle, LC, NC, medium chill with the N in your life, I'll listen and hope to learn or to speak up and say, "Hey that happened to me, too, and here's what worked for me."  Whether you were abused by your N on an hourly or daily or monthly or semi-monthly or yearly basis and whether your N was a lone ranger or one of a Clan of Crazymakers, I'll listen.  Whether you're new here or you were the first blogger to arrive on the scene, I'll listen to what you have to say.

And I will take what's good and applicable in your story and try to learn from it, to take it to heart and to put it through my process and see if it applies to me still and maybe ask a question or two and then I will find a use for it in my life and pass it on to someone else when they maybe need it the most.  That's how we win against the army of the Narcs.  We learn how to heal and then we pass on our knowledge right down the chain of ACoNs and we build the numbers of people who were hurt by Narcs and no longer have to be.

Sometimes knowledge isn't just power, it's everything.  With knowledge, our minds, souls, hearts, brains and our voices all get stronger.  We get louder.  We tell the truth and we become steadfast in our resolve that we will continue to TELL and we will TELL over and over again and we will TELL louder and louder still the truth of what it was like, what happened, what it's like now and how we will NEVER let it happen again.  And maybe, hey, here's a thought, maybe you deserve to not let it happen either.  That's what's good here, to me.

Abraham Lincoln said (and forgive me if I get it slightly wrong because I am too damn worn out and tired to go looking for an attribution, so this is from memory,)
"America is great because she is good.  If she ceases to be good, she will also cease to be great."

I'm not talking about good in the sense of behavioral constructs and boundaries, I'm not talking about being good because we pick up our dirty laundry or abide by the rules of a family system or we always show up to appointments fifteen minutes early.

I'm talking about good in the sense of honor and justice and kindness and empathy.  Maybe a little sympathy, too, but also a call to action a la Alice Miller.  Good means, to me, putting the truth in the middle of the conversation and redirecting the conversation to it over and over again.  What's the truth of ACoNs?
Simple: we were all abused as children.
What's the solution to that?
Simple: people who abuse children should not be allowed to.

Because all of this pain we lay out, that's the result of parents (or caretakers) who hurt and of societies who allow those parents (or caretakers) to hurt.  The rest, I think, is semantics.

And that's what breaking my heart about the talk of different communities and different branches of cliques or governments in ACoN blogland.  We're all in the same boat.  Maybe we got here different ways and maybe some of us are booked into steerage and some of are working the dining room, but none of us are riding in style in the first class Penthouse, even if we did have to pay that passage.  Because the cruise line director probably put the sneaky damn Narcs in there.  They're the ones hanging out over at the dailystrength forums watching this shit go down.  (I wonder what they're doing with all that information?)

The only result that I have seen so far in this entire seemingly forever-long battle of the blogs is this;
your voices don't seem as true to me as they used to, it's harder to follow you on the path that you're on because I keep getting confused about what you're saying.  I'm hearing mean.  I'm hearing spite.  I'm hearing unbreakable vows and absolutes of correctness.  I'm hearing forced authoritarianism and retaliation.  I'm hearing moral superiority.  I'm hearing revisionism.  I'm hearing gaslighting.  I'm hearing "I know you are but what am I's" and "Nee ner nee ner nee ners."  I'm hearing justifications.  I'm hearing attacks.  I'm hearing accusations.  I'm hearing blindsiding and traps being set.  I'm hearing teams being picked by order of loyalty and conceived popularity for a game that, to my knowledge, isn't even scheduled to be played.

What I'm not hearing is a whole lot of people talking about the pain of being raised by Narcs and the freedom in learning about how to overcome that.

And that is breaking my fucking heart.

I'll end my post with the same word I've ended every post and comment that I've ever put out here with: love.  I do love you all.  I want you all to know that you're lovable, and I want to know that I am capable of love.  Love is the antithesis to the hell of my life that the Narcs created.  And the opposite of that hell, man, that's where I want to stay.


PS - I didn't name names for lots of reasons, but this is the primary one:  It's been my experience that if I think someone is talking about or to me, it's likely that they are.  And it's been a huge part of my path of recovery to take that as a reason that I should look at my own actions.