communication, healthcare, holidays

Today is the first day of the rest of the year…

Happy New Year, y’all. I will do a write up of our personal festivities on my travel blog; because let’s face it, that blog needs some love. For this blog, I’ll just say we had a basically nice time… except for the point where I got into a rather serious discussion with Bill about the logistics of my living in Germany and accessing healthcare. It’s not that I have an immediate need for it… but I’m not getting any younger. Because we’re here at the pleasure of the U.S. military, I could either go to a German doctor, or I could go to Landstuhl (U.S. military facility). And because I never go to the doctor, I literally don’t know what I would do here if the need suddenly arose for me to seek medical care. On the other hand, I do know how to call 112, and that’s probably what it would take before I would willingly go see a doctor.

I think this subject came up because we were talking about what our plans will be after it’s time for Bill to quit working so hard. We were talking about younger daughter, and how her husband has launched a good career. They hope to move sometime soon, because the apartment they live in is too small for their family. Bill mentioned that it wouldn’t be long before they might buy a home of their own. And I kind of wistfully said, “They’ll probably be homeowners before we will.”

I always thought by now, I’d own my own house somewhere, and I’d be settled, perhaps with a family of my own. Instead, I’ve been in this weird kind of limbo, where half my stuff is in the United States, and a lot of my friends and most of my family are there… but here I am in Germany, where I’ve been for close to half my marriage. It does feel kind of like home, and yet I don’t really speak the language… and I don’t have a lot of friends. None of my family, except for Bill, lives here. It’s not a bad thing… It’s just not what I expected for my life. Nothing has really turned out the way I figured it would. Well, except for the fact that I went to graduate school.

I do remember in high school, being asked on some kind of government research thing– maybe it was a standardized test– about the level of formal education I expected to attain. Even back then, I assumed I’d get a master’s degree. However, I thought it would be in equine studies, or something similar. I don’t even know if such a program exists. But I do remember, back then, feeling daunted by the prospect of getting a master’s degree. I thought it might be too hard for me. I sure didn’t expect that I would get two of them at the same time, or that they would be in either social work or public health. When I was a teenager, I probably had a better idea of what I was good at, academically speaking. But when the time came to go back to school, I was simply trying to become employable, so I could launch my typical “American dream” lifestyle. And look what happened! I bumped into Bill online, and became a nomad, which made launching that career very difficult.

So anyway, we were talking about home ownership when Bill retires, and Bill said that he would like to buy a house in Europe somewhere… maybe Italy, Spain, Portugal, or even France. Germany is also, of course, a possibility, although I think it might be more expensive here. We do know Americans who have retired here, though. And Bill said that he wanted us to own a home so I wouldn’t have to deal with renting anymore. He says he thinks he will predecease me. I said I wasn’t so sure. Bill goes to the doctor, and I never do. I was very traumatized by an Air Force gynecologist years ago, so even though I “know” better, it really takes a lot to get me to see doctors. I despise military healthcare.

I understand logically why it would be a good idea to go see a doctor and get checked for certain things, like high blood pressure, cancer, and diabetes. Hell, I even studied public health, where I learned about the value of screenings and preventive healthcare. But psychologically, I just have a very difficult time with it. And it’s even worse in a country where I don’t speak the language fluently, and people tend to be blunt about certain things. I can’t imagine my taking it without getting really upset. I know that putting it off only makes it more likely that I won’t have a choice in providers when I finally see one, because it will be in emergency circumstances. On the other hand, I’m not sure how I would choose a doctor here, anyway. And I’m not even sure if it’s worth the time and energy to go to one.

I know Bill would be devastated if I died before he does… but he has people who will be there for him. He has two daughters, and one speaks to him. She has children who call him “Papa”. I don’t have any descendents. I just have a bunch of cousins and three older sisters, who always felt more like aunts. So, I guess I just don’t see why I’d need to hang around. I certainly wouldn’t want to live as long as my Granny did. She was almost 101 when she died. When I consider how stiff and painful I get in the mornings, I truly dread being that old… particularly with no one around who cares about me. I guess it’s just the pragmatic/depressive side of me coming out again. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I have to die anyway, right? So why prolong the inevitable?

I asked Bill if it bothers him that I don’t see doctors. He said it does, although he never says anything about it. He is respecting my “agency”, I guess. So I asked him what he would do if I told him I’d found a lump in my breast (not that I have). He said he’d want me to have it checked, and would probably insist. The idea of that makes me cringe, though. Because it’s been so long since I last accessed the healthcare system that there are many screenings I’ve missed. I know a lot of them would be suggested and encouraged. Or maybe not. Either way, I’d probably end up stressed out and upset. In fact, thinking about this topic is very unnerving to me, so I think I’ll move on.

So… that’s how we wound up on that topic. Bill would like to settle abroad, because the lifestyle suits us. I wouldn’t mind living abroad, either. I truly think it’s better over here, in many ways. It would come at a cost, I guess… weakening family ties and friendly relations, such as they are. But I can’t see myself wanting to live in an American subdivision somewhere, with homeowners’ associations dictating what color I can paint my shutters or whether or not I can have a garden. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But the truth is, there’s no telling where life will lead us. We have no reason to stay or go anywhere in particular. I don’t see us willingly moving to Utah, which is where younger daughter lives. I know it’s pretty there, but I like my communities less religiously oriented.

Fortunately, the subject soon changed, because we happened to be having it while we were enjoying the last of the evening’s libations. It was almost time for the proverbial ball to drop. And once it did, we went outside to watch the fireworks. There were a lot more of them this year, of course. Our neighbors were in the street, setting them off. They set one off very close to our car, which concerned me a little bit. I’m glad to report that no Volvos were injured during the fireworks display last night.

Well… I’m sure there are other things I could write about, and maybe I will later. But for now, I think I’ll go to the travel blog and write something a little less sobering.

I hope your first day of 2023 is shaping up well. Remember, today is the first day of the rest of the year!

The featured photo was taken last night. For some reason, I always seem to think I can capture fireworks on camera. It very rarely happens.

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condescending twatbags, Ex, family, holidays, mental health, narcissists, psychology, social media, Twitter

Christmas should not be a time for a grand performance…

I wrote a “mushy” post yesterday. It was because I realized how much more I enjoy Christmas than I did when I was younger. Watching my husband put a duvet cover on a weighted blanket he bought for me gave me all kinds of warm, fuzzy feelings. I realized that I don’t care about things. I care about the one person who makes me really happy and loves me for who I am. And Christmas is fun and relaxing for us, because we’re compatible and satisfied with each other. It’s a beautiful thing. Last night, Bill read my post and cried.

I’ve written a lot of posts about Christmases past… ones with my family of origin, and one that directly involved Ex, who is the Grand Poobah of Holiday Misery. Last year, I wrote a post about this topic that I absolutely stand by today. The post was titled “I refuse to let anyone mess up my holidays, and it’s a good policy to have.” It was about realizing that we all get a vote. Christmas is for everyone who wants to celebrate it. It should be a time of peace, love, understanding, good will, and enjoying the good things in life. If you’re Christian, it is, above all, about honoring the birth Jesus Christ, who died for the sins of man.

The religious part of the holiday is not what I want to focus on today, although I know it’s important to many people. What I want to focus on is the stress that inevitably comes from all holidays, but especially THIS one. Christmas is, after all, the biggest holiday of the year. But when it comes down to it, it’s also just a day. It shouldn’t be a day for grand performances, and by that, I don’t mean actual performances involving singing or dancing. I mean people who do things to make a judgmental point, being sanctimonious, or trying to be someone they’re not.

This morning, just before breakfast, I read an AITA (am I the asshole) post on God’s page about a woman whose turn it was to host Christmas. She decided that she wanted her dinner to be “dry”– as in, no booze allowed. When I first saw the title of the post, I immediately had some sympathy for her position. It was, after all, her house. If she doesn’t want to serve alcohol in her house, that’s her prerogative. But then I read the actual post. I note that the Redditors labeled her the “asshole”.

Yup. I agree. She is the asshole.

It sounds like the OP unilaterally decided that there shouldn’t be any boozing in her house. It’s her right to decide that, of course, but her attitude toward her husband’s family is not very kind or charitable. She doesn’t make a polite or respectful request, nor does it sound like she told people a long time in advance about her rule. What would have happened if her sister-in-law hadn’t called to ask about what she should bring? It sounds like that was when she mentioned her “no booze” rule, not when she issued the invitations.

I would have more empathy for the OP’s position if she had stated outright that she preferred the dinner to be booze free, rather than allowing the rule to be spread on the family grapevine. And then, she reveals that she thinks people in her husband’s family are “childish” and need to “grow up”. Those are insulting remarks that aren’t very Christmassy at all.

Her sister-in-law decided to host her own Christmas dinner, which she is well within her rights to do. And the family has decided they would prefer that invitation to the OP’s, who refused to budge on her no booze rule, with no hope of compromise. And she assumes they are going to the sister-in-law’s house because they can’t stay sober for one day, not because she was disrespectful to them.

Sister-in-law even invited the OP and her husband to their house, so there wouldn’t be any booze in the OP’s home. But she’s butthurt about it and refusing to go… and she’s “making” her husband stay home and spend Christmas with her. As if she has the right to dictate where another adult spends their time… I wonder how she would like it if her husband told her she “couldn’t go” somewhere she wanted to go. Some people would call that abusive.

What if the OP had compromised and allowed beer and wine below a certain ABV? Maybe she could have allowed wine only during dinner, or operated a “cash bar” set up, with people paying for libations. The money raised could then be donated to an agreed upon charity, or put in a pot for the next family gathering. Or maybe she could have come up with some other compromise that didn’t involve shame and judgment. That might have cut down on the drunkenness and sloppy behavior, while still allowing adults to have some fun. If she really didn’t want any alcohol in her home, she could have stated it kindly and lovingly, instead of with a judgmental and insulting attitude. Even if drinking alcohol to excess is unhealthy and can lead to obnoxious behavior, offering to host a family dinner and self-righteously lecturing people about their habits on a holiday is very poor form. No wonder alternate plans were made.

And then there’s the “grand performance” intended to put someone in a good or miraculous light.

How sweet.

Against my better judgment, I took a look at Ex’s Twitter page last night. She made several posts directed at Oreo, Betty Crocker, Wilton Cakes, and Spangler Candy. She videoed her supposedly severely autistic son, whom she has said is “non-verbal”, and her youngest daughter. They were decorating cookies and making what appears to be a train made with Oreos, frosting, and candies. She’s presenting her son as “miraculous” somehow, as he reads aloud, reminding everyone again that he’s “non-verbal”. And yet, obviously he ISN’T really non-verbal. Non-verbal would mean he can’t or won’t talk. Obviously he does have the power of speech and uses it. She’s mentioned before times when her son was “trained” to say things (that was her word for it). It serves her when he seems worse off than he actually is, as it gets her sympathy. But she’d rather he not be worse off in reality, because that makes life harder for her… or her daughters, who are evidently the ones who look after him most of the time.

I didn’t watch the whole video, because hearing Ex’s voice was too upsetting for Bill. But she also taught her son a song and dance, which he gamely performed on the video. I was torn between feeling good for him that he was trying so hard and having some fun, and feeling disgust for Ex, because it’s obvious she’s hoping to go viral and, perhaps, score some money from big companies. I don’t think her videos will get that kind of traction, but she plainly has high hopes. It seems to me that maybe it would be better to turn off the camera and focus on her time with her family, rather than trying to pitch her son’s handiwork with sweets to corporations.

@BettyCrockerโฉ Autistic children are amazing, beautiful perfectionists!!! How do you like ***** sugar cookies?

@Oreoโฉ a gift for you from ****!!!

I could see making these kinds of posts for friends and family members, but she only tagged big companies, and it was kind of obvious that she hoped they’d think the display was cute and offer her some kind of sponsorship or endorsement deal. Once again, it looks like she’s making her offspring perform in the hopes of scoring some “easy” (for her) loot. I can see now why a couple of her kids have moved far away from her. Because I have a feeling that this kind of thing is a regular occurrence, especially at Christmas. There’s an image to project to strangers, but very little love for actual family members. I also never see her posting about her husband, who was so much “better” than Bill.

The funny thing is, I’d bet $100 that Bill had a much nicer holiday than they did… And he also got to share messages with his mom and his daughter yesterday. There were no performances or pretenses. It was just everyone being themselves and genuinely wishing each other well. Nobody got drunk or obnoxious or had a meltdown, either. And… everything I bought for Bill is paid for in full. I don’t know if he can say the same thing, but I do know that he can pay for everything if he needs to. Ex can’t say that. In fact, she was recently lamenting about how she had no money for Christmas… but she had lots of money for sweets, which she is now promoting on Twitter. Go figure.

Anyway… it’s not my business. I need to end this post, too. We have a lunch date. Hopefully, steroid mad Arran will stay out of trouble while we’re out… my first time out in a long while. If he stays out of trouble, maybe that will be our Christmas miracle. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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dogs, Ex, holidays, narcissists

Sure enough, I was right again about Ex…

Hello to you folks out there in Internetland. I apologize in advance for today’s blog post. This is a tough time of year, though, when there are narcissists in your life… even if they are just on the periphery. Writing about this bizarre stuff is useful for me. It helps me process. I suspect some other people are helped by it, as well. Dealing with a personality disordered narcissistic type is jarring and isolating, at best.

Yesterday, I wrote about my father. In that post, I wrote that I don’t think he was a narcissist. I still don’t think he was. He had issues with alcoholism and PTSD, but there were many times when he had compassion and empathy. He also didn’t deliberately do things to stir up shit, especially during the holidays. It’s just that things would happen frequently in his watch, usually because of his irritability and short fuse, and shenanigans from one of my sisters. If he weren’t an alcoholic and had a chance to work on his demons, I don’t think he would have been who he frequently was. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Ex.

Recently, I wrote a post about Christmas time approaching. In that post, I wrote about how narcissists LOVE to ruin holidays. That wasn’t a new topic for me. I’ve written plenty of times about how Ex has screwed up people’s abilities to enjoy celebrations. Sure enough, it happened again this year.

Yesterday, we received a box from younger daughter. In it, there was a stocking for the dogs. It was full of rawhide treats and a toy. They went nuts for it, although we don’t give them rawhides. I used to give them to our dogs, but have since stopped, because they can break teeth and cause intestinal blockages. Still, I got some really adorable shots of their reactions to the gift. She also sent a framed photo of her family, which delighted both of us– especially Bill. It’s just so nice to finally have one of his kids back in our lives. Just talking to her brings him joy.

Arran was obsessed with the photo, because it smelled like the treats!
The dogs were delighted with younger daughter’s gift!

Of course, Ex isn’t very happy about younger daughter’s reconciliation with her father. She’s upset that younger daughter lives so far away, and resists her attempts to maintain control of her. Recently, younger daughter celebrated her birthday. Ex contacted her at midnight Ex’s time, which is two hours later than where younger daughter lives. Ex wrote that she hoped younger daughter had a good birthday, then wrote a lengthy screed about her life. It was full of the usual complaints and insults, which younger daughter wrote that she could barely stand to read.

Then she went on Facebook and liked every photo in which younger daughter was tagged, leaving her with about 35 notifications on her account. Younger daughter wisely wrote that it looked like Ex was trying to look like she was being a “good mother”. As Christmas day is approaching, I’m betting there will soon be more of the same behavior… lots of drama and actions that are designed to maintain appearances for onlookers.

Younger daughter also had a discussion with older daughter, and my suspicions about her motivation for going back to school were confirmed. It’s for the loan money… although I’m not sure Ex really thought this idea through very well. The program that older daughter is entering will introduce her to courses in psychology that may ring a bell of recognition pertaining to her own fucked up situation. I’m sure Ex will do her best to encourage older daughter not to expose herself in person to people who might recognize her plight and offer to help her escape. That could, however, wind up being exactly what happens. Who knows?

Older daughter also made it clear that she won’t leave her mother’s home, because she’s too worried about what would happen to her little brother with severe autism. If that isn’t a damning statement, I don’t know what is. Here she is, sacrificing her life to make sure her brother is taken care of. Part of me wonders, though, if she’s made this her mission in life because she’s afraid to try living on her own. I’m sure fear is a big part of it– she’s afraid for her brother, and rightfully so. But I think she’s also afraid for herself– engaging in a little “learned helplessness”. So she stays in a hellish situation, living with her narcissistic mother under the guise of “protecting” her brother, who will soon be an adult. Does she plan to stay there for the rest of her life? I don’t know… but sooner or later, she’s going to be on her own. I hope it’s not when she’s middle-aged.

Also… if her brother’s well-being would really be in jeopardy if he was left alone with Ex, perhaps it’s time for authorities to intervene. It would make sense to get him out of the home, too. Older daughter is certainly old enough to file for legal custody of her brother, if she really thinks he’s in danger, although it might not be feasible for her to care for him alone. She’d have to get a job. But there are programs and schools for people like him. It sounds like she’ll probably be taking care of him, anyway. Anyway… it’s not my business… but I do wonder. I know Bill worries about his older daughter, too.

Older daughter also used to enjoy going to meetings at the LDS church. Younger daughter said that she stopped attending, though, because people in the church were trying to help her, and that upset Ex. It was church members who helped younger daughter escape Ex, so now Ex wants no part of the religion, even though she was the one who brought them to church in the first place. The church is a source of outside influence, friends, significant others, and prying eyes that might get Ex in trouble or cause her to lose resources. I often see Ex posting about protecting children, liberal causes, autism awareness, and other “woke” stuff. But the reality is, she doesn’t even take care of her own son, let alone actually do any work that would further the causes she claims to support. Taking care of her son is her older daughter’s job. Ex doesn’t want her to leave, because she’s basically convinced her to be her slave and allow her to exploit her own child. Older daughter is a “stay at home daughter”, not unlike the unmarried daughters in large fundie families who stay home to raise their parents’ children and do chores.

I would stake money on Ex being involved in something illegal. I would not be surprised, for instance, if she’s engaged in identity theft, or something of that nature. She has a history of doing sketchy things, particularly regarding money, especially with those who get closed to her. Unfortunately, no one has ever held her legally accountable. At least not yet. Hopefully, her meeting with karma is upcoming. I certainly pray for it.

Today’s featured photo also made an appearance in my repost of my review of The Sociopath Next Door. I’m reposting it again, because Ex ticks all of the boxes. I hope younger daughter decides to block her mom soon. She deserves to enjoy her holidays in peace.

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Ex, holidays, narcissists

Christmas time is coming… you know what means, right? Here’s the best Christmas gift…

Before I get started… this isn’t going to be a super lighthearted post. It might be funny or interesting to some readers who know our story, and it could be helpful and informative to others… I just want to warn anyone who’s here looking for festive glad tidings that this post ain’t it.

Still with me? Mmm’kay…

When I was really young, I loved Christmas. I loved the food, the music, staying home from school, and getting Christmas presents. I loved being with my family, too. As I got older, Christmas became more of a burden. I found out that Santa isn’t real, not that I was ever a big believer in Santa… I recognized my mom’s handwriting on the packages. Then I felt like I had to buy gifts, and I never had any money. I also realized I didn’t know the recipients well enough to get them something they really wanted, so it felt like I was wasting money that I didn’t have.

As time went on, I came to realize that Christmas had lost its magic for me and filled me with apprehension and stress, rather than the touching family moments depicted on the Hallmark channel. It wasn’t until I married Bill and swore off family gatherings that I started to enjoy the holidays again. So… from about 2005 onwards, Christmas became fun for us… I now enjoy Christmas. I like shopping for Bill, because I know what he likes, needs, and wants. And we don’t try to make Christmas what it isn’t. It’s just a day. We enjoy the day and all the good stuff that comes with it. He is the one person I can count on to love me for exactly who I am. That is a huge blessing. I, in turn, love him for exactly who he is.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t see drama about to erupt from other sources. Most of it stays away from us in the most personal sense. However, because Bill and his daughter have reconnected, he’s hearing about drama from afar. It occurred to me that this is the time of year when narcissists usually become completely insufferable. And based on what I’ve seen from Ex lately, I think it could hit a fever pitch this year.

Behold:

On the surface, this sort of seems like a “cute” post, right? She’s putting up her Christmas tree, and oops! She forgot to add one of the middle sections! She must now get on social media to show everyone her “mistake” and ask for advice.

Ummm… I know for a fact that Ex knows how to put up a Christmas tree. And I think she knows how to fix this problem. That tree has just four parts to it. It’s not even like the trees of yore, which had dozens of individual limbs and color codes that had to be put on one at a time. It takes two minutes to put up a tree like the one pictured, even if you put the wrong section on the lower part. On our tree, the top part wouldn’t even fit on the bottom section. And why in the hell would you put lights on before you assemble the tree?

But then I notice at the end of her post, she writes “On the 1st day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… no help on the Christmas tree.”

Uh huh. That was a dig at #3, who is apparently checked out. After twenty years of this kind of shit, I can’t really blame him. It took Bill half as much time to withdraw from Ex’s craziness. So when he ignores her, she hits up social media for attention.

Some of you who might be reading this are probably thinking… “How do you know all of this? And more importantly, why do you care?”

The fact is, I don’t actually care, except to the extent that it upsets younger daughter. She lives in another state, true… but it’s the holiday season, and narcissists are typically a nightmare during the holidays. They just can’t help themselves. They have this image they desperately want to project, and they expect everyone else to buy into the image. The trouble is, even if other people are cooperative, the reality never lives up to the perfect image in Exโ€™s mind. That causes her a lot of stress and gives her excuses to stir up drama.

The holidays are also a time of year when people are expected to be kind, grateful, and happy. Narcissists aren’t naturally kind, grateful, or happy people, even if that’s the image they try, and sometimes manage to project, to strangers. BUT– they expect YOU to be all of those things and more. If you protest when they criticize you, there will be hell to pay. “You can’t win for losin'”, as my sweet husband likes to say.

So… Ex decides to “spread the wealth” that comes with being upset during the holidays. Instead of sending warm wishes in a Christmas card or a lovely present, she sends hateful private messages full of rage, accusations, and guilt. Instead of making a phone call or starting a video chat, she drops a load of psychic angst via Facebook messenger. And then, when the response is anything other than groveling or mea culpas, she “shares the wealth” of misery to other people who care enough to listen to her complaints. Ah… holiday stress. It’s the narcissistic gift that ripples across generations, right?

I’ve been in Bill’s life for over 20 years, and I have seen Ex spoil MANY holidays. She usually craps on Christmas, but I’ve also seen her fuck up birthdays and Easter. Since one of her daughters and a granddaughter were born on July 4th, you can bet that day will be messed up, too. It’s a double whammy– Independence Day and a birthday for two family members. She hates it when the attention isn’t focused on her, so she’s got to do something to get into the limelight.

Years ago, Dr. Tara Palmatier, the Shrink4Men, wrote an excellent article about high conflict individuals during the holidays. If you have one of these in your life, I highly recommend that you check it out. Narcissistic exes who routinely act even more like self-centered idiots during the holidays is a real “thing”. It’s not all in your head. Dr. T also wrote a hilarious gift guide for the high conflict person in your life. Yes, it’s tongue in cheek… and maybe it’ll make you smile as you figure out how to get through another holiday season… and maybe consider if you really want to spend the rest of your life dealing with this kind of ridiculous nonsense.

A few days ago, younger daughter told us a bit about a recent conflict she had with Ex, who berated her for her supposed shortcomings. Younger daughter, to her credit, attempted to stick up for herself. She actually told Ex that she was being abusive. She hoped that Ex would see the error of her ways… but sadly, Ex didn’t get it and simply heaped on more abuse and blame. I couldn’t help but shake my head. I could totally relate.

I once made the mistake of thinking one of my own family members was mature enough to have a discussion about some abusive behavior from a Christmas past. Sure enough, she turned into a victim, and I was the bad one for bringing it up. The crazy thing was, I was actually trying to be positive. I was trying to tell her that her tantrum during the last Christmas I spent with my family of origin had strengthened my resolve not to tolerate that shit from anyone else, including and especially Ex. Saying “no” to this particular relative had led to my having the strength to say “no” to Ex the following year, when she “invited” Bill and me to Bill’s father’s house for Christmas. Instead of looking back on that incident objectively, she claimed I was being mean to her. She turned into a pathetic victim.

Younger daughter is more mature than I was when I was her age. Hell, she’s probably more mature than I am now. ๐Ÿ˜‰ As she was talking about this dramatic exchange she had with Ex, she got this wizened look on her face and said, “It just totally blew up in my face.” And I knew that she realized, then and there, that there is no point in trying to talk reasonably with personality disordered people like this. They can’t see your viewpoint. They won’t consider your perspective. They have no empathy. That’s part of their disorder and, sadly, it won’t ever change. The best you can do is minimize how that shitty nonsense will affect you. Learn to either diffuse it or ignore it, or better yet, go no or minimal contact.

Then last night, we heard from younger daughter again. She was very excited about and thankful for a birthday gift Bill had sent her. And she told us that she had decided to apologize to her sisters for all of the things Ex claimed they were angry at her about. She also sent them copies of what Ex had sent her in her private message of doom. To that, I say, BRAVO. Ex is a world class triangulator. She has perfected to an art form the skill of telling people different things to get them upset at each other. They don’t speak to one another, so whatever they know has been filtered through Ex, who naturally spins it so that it’s completely twisted and totally askew. She said that older daughter was “nice” and wrote “I accept your apology.” I could see by the slight flash of snark on younger daughter’s face that she could tell it was bullshit that older daughter felt owed an apology for anything. It was quite hilarious.

But what I’d also like to tell her is that it’s a brilliant move to send transcripts of Ex’s diatribes to her sisters. Why? Because then they can see for themselves what was actually communicated. Thereโ€™s less opportunity to take it out of context. And, there’s a LOVELY side effect to taking this action. Once Ex knows that her secrets aren’t being kept, she stops writing things down and sending them.

Back in 2006, when I wrote to Ex for the first and only time, I ripped her a new one because she had sent Bill an email with all sorts of nasty bile about me, and how the kids hated me and didn’t want us in their lives. She then asked Bill not to tell me what she’d written. She claimed she wanted to “spare my feelings.” Nope… that demand wasn’t about sparing anyone’s feelings. She wanted to drive a wedge between us. She is Olympic class at doing this; I’ve watched her do it for over twenty years. She was hoping Bill would resent me for being an obstacle to having his daughters in his life. It backfired, because Bill could plainly see that I had nothing to do with stopping him from having relationships with his kids. Moreover, the (now adult) kids are free to think whatever they want about me. That’s not something I can control, nor would I want to try. BUT… I will not tolerate Ex telling my husband to keep secrets from me and interfering in our marriage.

She could see that I know all about her and that Bill is loyal to me. Sending him nasty emails simply gives me more evidence of who and what she is. I’m not going to keep her secrets or accept her abuse. So, when that fact became clear, she stopped sending Bill emails! Blessed be! She also never called him again! The last we directly heard from her was, unfortunately, when she sent many boxes of Bill’s possessions restricted delivery, along with an itemized list marked “confidential” and a toxic little story book Bill used to read to the girls… HA! There was a nasty letter about what a horrible father and husband Bill is, along with paperwork for Bill to sign that would allow #3 to adopt Bill’s daughters. Of course he wasn’t going to sign the papers. Even if he did that, she wouldn’t have to file them, and he would have to keep paying child support. And then she’d have a paper with his signature on it to use as an alienation tool. That nasty little delivery occurred just in time for Bill’s 42nd birthday. Another special day ruined!

Bill still has all of that stuff. He’s kept it for the day when he needed to explain it to one of his daughters. Sure enough, that day recently came, and he told his daughter about what Ex had done. He did that because, in her recent little tirade, Ex told younger daughter about how Bill hadn’t wanted to pay child support and “offered” to let #3 adopt them. So younger daughter asked about what had actually happened… or even just Bill’s side of the issue. She’s figured out that her mother lies and twists things to suit her agenda. She knew there was more to the story and she wanted to hear it. So Bill told her his side, and offered to show her the stuff Ex sent anytime she wanted to see it. He told her about how he went next door and spoke to our neighbor at the time, who is a lawyer and is still a dear friend. ๐Ÿ˜‰

But, I think what really made me PROUD of younger daughter and impressed by her smarts was when she looked into the camera and said, “Now I can see things from both sides.” She said she remembered how Bill recently explained to her how, when she was still a kid, Bill would call and try to speak to his daughters. At that time, younger daughter was always “unavailable”. She was in the bathtub, or had a headache, or otherwise couldn’t come to the phone. Gradually, former stepson and older daughter also quit speaking to Bill. Ex turned the ringer off of the phone, so he’d call and no one would answer. Younger daughter became more and more hostile, and for a long time, I didn’t like her. My dislike was because of the image she was portraying. But that wasn’t really her. It was a facade spackled by Ex, designed to turn off anyone who might influence or assist her daughter, whom she sees as solely her “property”. Ex can’t share, and she resents anyone who takes what she thinks belongs to her. That includes other people, especially those who have passed through her birth canal. ๐Ÿ˜€

Since younger daughter now lives in another state, and has her own family, she is now seeing things the way Bill used to see them when he and Ex communicated. Now, she gets it! It’s a beautiful thing that she finally understands– although I am very sorry that she’s now on the other side of her mother’s abuse. Being on one side is bad enough. I guess we can take comfort in knowing that this is how she treats everyone eventually.

In any case, I strongly suspect that the holidays are causing an uptick in drama at Ex’s house. But I also suspect that her husband is about to ditch her. And this time, she might not land on her feet. So that will cause her to act up and act out, and try to pull other people into her crises… to include strangers on social media whom she asks about how to put up her stupid Christmas tree as she slides in a little dig toward #3, who clearly isn’t paying enough attention to her during this holiday season. Too funny… and it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person, huh?

What I’d also like to tell younger daughter is that I’ve learned not to be too hard on anyone who has to live full time with Ex. For a long time, I didn’t like people who seemed to be on Ex’s side. But now I realize that Ex makes people miserable. She’s a toxic person, and having to live with a toxic person is unpleasant. Toxic behavior is contagious, especially if you live in the FOG (fear, obligation, and guilt that comes with living with a high conflict person). It’s not really personal. They’re literally living in an environment that makes them “sick”. I have observed people leaving Ex’s sphere and becoming completely different, happier, healthier people. I also observed my own mother becoming a different person after my toxic dad passed eight years ago.

So, when her sisters are snarky, rude, or clueless, or #3’s mother says something thoughtless or insulting, it might be helpful for younger daughter to remember that they live in a toxic place, and they are affected by Ex’s toxic bullshit. Misery loves company, so they’re inviting her to join in their little miserable soiree. That might help her feel more sympathetic when they say shitty things to her. Actually, in her case, it probably would have that effect. In my case, it probably wouldn’t. I’m not as nice as younger daughter is, and I have never had a “loving” relationship with the people involved in this situation. In fact, I barely know them at all. So… I guess I could muster empathy, because they’re fellow human beings, and I don’t like to see fellow human beings suffering.

Anyway… Bill told his daughter that she doesn’t need to apologize to anyone for living her life on her own terms and being as healthy as she can be. One of the best things about being an adult is that you have the ability to make choices like whether or not you’re going to show up for people who behave like jerks. Children don’t often have a choice in whether or not they tolerate abusive behavior. Adults do. And younger daughter is well beyond the age of majority, so she really doesn’t have to tolerate this crap anymore. Better yet, she has young children of her own to protect from this toxic, narcissistic fuckery, which is an even more important reason to tell Ex to “zip it” and kick her to the curb.

For you, Ex.

I’d say that realizing that she doesn’t have to put up with ruined holidays and acting accordingly is the best Christmas present a person could ever get. I know it was a life changer for me when I stopped showing up for dysfunctional family holiday drama. ๐Ÿ˜‰ So… Merry Christmas! And have a happy, HEALTHY, new year.

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communication, family, holidays, karma

Thanksgiving thoughts… or, why I like holidays in Germany.

Here’s another too personal, introspective story about my psyche, and why I am the way I am. It’s probably not very interesting, but it’s what’s on my mind. The featured photo is of me in 1979, visiting Granny’s house. It was probably for my maternal grandfather’s funeral. I see there’s snow on the ground, but I’m not wearing a jacket. Seems pretty much par for the course. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Traditionally, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. I grew up going to my Granny’s house in Natural Bridge, Virginia, where my dad and his brothers and sisters were raised in a cool farmhouse by two creeks and surrounded by mountains. Granny died in 2007, but my Uncle Brownlee and Aunt Gayle have kept the tradition going. We lost Brownlee in 2019, which was very sad for me. Brownlee was probably my favorite relative. Gayle and my cousins are still throwing the annual shindig, which will no doubt include good food, dancing, singing, live music, and card playing… and probably some beer drinking. I wish I could be there, but for obvious reasons, I can’t… And actually, given the politics that are going on right now, maybe it’s for the best. I come from a long line of Trump admirers. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Today, we’ve been invited to go to one of Bill’s co-worker’s homes for Thanksgiving. This guy is kind of special, because he’s someone Bill knew when they were both in the Army back in the late 80s. They served in Germany together, back when they were young and single. Now they work together again, and get along great. It was because of Bill’s co-worker that we were able to spend our 20th anniversary together in France and seeing James Taylor perform. Otherwise, Bill would have been in Las Vegas at a conference.

Bill will repay the favor to his friend for Christmas, since we almost never go anywhere for the holidays. The lone exception was 2019, when my hometown friend, Audra, invited us to France. She lives there, but we met in Gloucester, Virginia, when we were in high school. I have another hometown friend who lives in Stuttgart now. We met in the third grade at Botetourt Elementary School, in Gloucester. Sometimes I wonder if my hometown friends moved to Europe for the same reasons I did. I suspect at least one of them did. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The funny thing is, I think we only spent one Thanksgiving in Gloucester out of the 19 years I lived there (Mom and Dad lived there for about 29 years). The rest were spent at Granny’s house… except for one year I went to a former friend’s house. I was 17 years old at the time. I remember my dad gave me a ration of shit for staying home that year, even though there were many times when he acted like, and even outright stated, that he couldn’t stand me. He was mostly concerned about what other people would say, worried that he would “look bad”.

I called my mom yesterday. She sounded terrible. She said she thought she had a cold, having been out with some friends of hers. She said she tested for COVID and the result was negative. Frankly, I suspect she didn’t wait long enough, especially since she said she had no energy. But aside from having a scratchy voice, she didn’t sound super sick. And she said she would be making herself a Thanksgiving dinner and eating it alone, since she doesn’t know what illness she has. She has plans to go to my sister’s house for Christmas next month.

We mostly had a good talk. She said she enjoyed my song for Bill… the one I did last month, not the more recent “Secret O’ Life”. Then, as I was about to sign off, she said she would like to see me. But then she said, “I know that won’t happen, though.”

I said, “I never said I wouldn’t come home. I said I didn’t know when we could come.” She hasn’t specifically asked me to come home, either… although maybe she asked my sister to invite me to Christmas. I had to decline because of Arran’s chemo, and because boarding the dogs at this late date would be a challenge.

Mom said she loved me and to take care of Bill and the dogs. Then we ended the call.

When our call ended, I kind of sat there dumbfounded. My mom isn’t usually one to pull guilt trips. It’s one of the things I like about her. She’s very pragmatic. I have explained to her that I find family gatherings very stressful and overwhelming. But I also remember how, when I needed understanding and support as a young woman with crippling anxiety and depression, she kept telling me she wanted me to leave. I actually wanted to leave, too. No one wanted me to move out more than I wanted to be gone. But she was very vocal and impatient about it. Now, that I’m gone, she wants me to come back again.

I am grateful that she and my dad let me stay in their home when I needed treatment for depression and anxiety… although I probably could have used that treatment when I was still a minor. A lot of it was caused by growing up in a very dysfunctional, alcoholic home, and having parents who made it clear to me that I had disappointed them. I know they love(d) me in their own ways… but breaking out of that place was very hard to do, and one of the best things I’ve ever done.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized a lot of things… maybe I’ve just become pragmatic like my mom is. I realize people are often disappointing on many levels. One of the great things about being an adult is that you don’t have to stick around or show up for disappointing people. I don’t like being around people who can’t accept me for who I am. My mom is probably more willing to accept me now, since we’re both a lot older… and I’m happily married and no longer a burden to her. I’m still a little traumatized by the past, even though it’s been 8 years since I was last “home”. I don’t want to spend hours on a plane to go back into a toxic situation. That’s less likely with my mom than it would be with my mom and my sisters together. But there’s still a risk.

I would like to see some of my family members. Some of them would probably like to see me. I would like to see my mom, too. I know I’m running out of time. But it’s kind of like making an appointment to see a doctor. Sometimes, it’s what you have to do for your own good, even if it might be unpleasant. I could probably use a doctor’s appointment, too. I have never been one for taking care of my physical health, because it wasn’t really a priority back when I was a child. It’s easier to stay where I am and just ignore everything…

Anyway… I’m sure we’ll have a good time with Bill’s friend. He lives in a beautiful home, and I remember him to be a lot of fun. Hopefully, Arran won’t get into any trouble while we’re out. I’ll still miss my family today. I do love them. Maybe someday, I can go home again. It’s not going to happen this year, though.

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