lessons learned, musings, narcissists

“Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth…”

Special thanks to singer-songwriter Facebooker extraordinaire, Janis Ian, who posted today’s featured photo on her Facebook page a day ago. I follow Janis Ian, but I’m not one to watch her obsessively. I think she’s often funny and thoughtful, but sometimes she’s a little too “woke” for my tastes. I know that comment might annoy some people. I know some people really think it’s cool to be super “woke”. I’m not there yet. I will probably never be there. I am definitely more left leaning than I once was, but I’m never going to be one of those people who is trying to be an “example” to others. Hell, I have enough trouble simply accepting myself as I am.

I do, however, see a lot of wisdom in Janis Ian’s recent “quote of the day” from an unknown source. There have been many times in my life when I’ve been left feeling terrible because of a regrettable exchange with someone. There have been times when I’ve said or done something that has upset or offended someone and have felt terrible about it forever. When that happens, I will self-flagellate, feeling like total shit, and withdraw from others. I think some people get the mistaken impression that I’m being a snob or that I feel like I’m “above” them in some way. That’s really not true at all. I just don’t like to feel like I annoy people. I feel like it’s better to stay home. This COVID-19 lifestyle, in some ways, is a good thing for me. I have a good excuse not to mingle.

From the time when I was a small child, I’ve gotten the message from important people that I wasn’t acceptable or “good”. Now… it IS true that some people love me for exactly who I am. Bill is one of those people. He doesn’t find me annoying at all. He never criticizes my laugh. He doesn’t tell me to lose weight or put on makeup. He doesn’t grouse about the fine layer of dust on the furniture or the fact that I can’t be arsed to get out of my nightgown if I’m not leaving the house. Instead, he’s kind and loving, and he never makes me feel like I’m worthless.

But even though my husband loves me for who I am and that makes me feel good, sometimes I do have trouble with my self-worth. I’ll give you a ridiculous “for instance”. Those of you who have been following me for awhile may know that Bill and I had some real trouble with a previous landlady. This lady seemed to have a real problem with me. She clearly didn’t like me, and seemed to judge me negatively for my lifestyle.

At first, her criticisms were couched in pleasantries and niceties. But, as time went on, she became more hostile and negative. I started to feel badly about myself. I remember feeling anxious, living in her house, as she would come over and I would watch her face as she took in the “appearance” of our house. It’s true, I am not an obsessive housekeeper, but I’m certainly not a filthy person. I don’t spend all of my free time polishing glassware, wiping down baseboards, or using a microfiber dust rag to clean the dust between the pipes on the towel warmer or heaters. I just can’t be bothered to be that detailed. It’s not worth my time. But I do empty the garbage, wipe down the counters, clean the toilets and shower, wash dishes, and do laundry. And I do vacuum, clean up the dog shit, and do other chores as needed.

However, she’s the type of person who would do those extremely anal retentive cleaning chores on a regular basis. I would see her expression darken when she noticed a pile of leaves that was left unswept. One time, I watched her aggressively shovel snow off the driveway. I had made a walkway for the postman, which was what was required, but since I wasn’t going anywhere and was feeling sick, I put off shoveling the whole thing. She came over, unannounced as usual, and got visibly pissed that I hadn’t done the whole driveway. I could feel her radiating disapproval. Naturally, that made me feel bad, because I don’t like to disappoint people. I resolved to make sure the driveway was perfectly shoveled after other snowstorms, even if I was sick.

Another time, she read me the “riot act” when she saw a “dust bunny” consisting of Arran’s hair that was caught in the doorway. She yelled at me that the hair was “encrusted”. Of course it wasn’t, and it took maybe two seconds to wipe it up. I hadn’t noticed it because it really was insignificant, but she saw it and freaked out. Then she screamed at me about it, and even mentioned it in an email to Bill. She asked him at one time if we’d like her to find us a housekeeper, nastily adding “Don’t you want to live in a clean house?”

Wow… I’ll tell you what. The very LAST thing I would want is to hire a housekeeper that she found for us. Especially since it later became very clear that she wasn’t respecting our privacy. Aside from that, she wasn’t living in the house, so I didn’t feel that I needed to keep the house cleaned to her standards. Especially since we were paying her too much for the “privilege” to live there. And also, the house wasn’t that clean when we moved in, but then she and former tenant were “buddies”. I guess she got a pass.

Now, a lot of people might tell me that I should just ignore those comments, but I genuinely felt bad when she’d send Bill emails about my deficiencies as a housekeeper. I felt terrible and, at first, very ashamed, when she would yell at me for things that she felt weren’t “up to snuff”. I didn’t know what her standards were when we moved in. If I had known, we certainly would not have taken that house.

But, at least at first, I really tried to do things more to her standards. I dutifully cleaned the white plastic panels on the new doors she’d had installed. They were exposed to the elements and doomed to become discolored at some point, but I knew she wanted them to look nice, even if no one would care about that but her. She asked me more than once to clean them off regularly, so I did. I would attempt to clean the windows in the living room, so she wouldn’t freak out about the nose prints left by our dogs. I would try to be presentable, at least when I knew she was coming. And I tried to be cordial. For a long time, I was as pleasant as I could be, even when she inconvenienced me by showing up randomly or was intrusive.

One day, she reached the end of my patience by screaming at me in the living room about an awning that had collapsed on my watch. It was seventeen years old. I had pointed it out to her that the thing was leaning. She had her husband “fix” it. It appeared to be repaired, so I used it a few times after he did the work. On one very hot day, a gust of wind blew, and the awning collapsed.

Fortunately, I was not sitting under the awning when it collapsed, although ex landlady claimed that the fact that I wasn’t sitting under it was a sign of my “gross negligence”. She immediately blamed me, and yelled at me in my own home, not just for the awning that she failed to have properly repaired, but also for the fact that one of the electric rolladens was not properly installed and would not go down. She claimed it wasn’t working properly because I didn’t use it often enough, even though a repairman later said it wasn’t installed correctly. She had no thought at all for the fact that I could have been seriously injured or perhaps even killed if that seventeen year old awning that she hadn’t fixed properly had fallen on my head. Instead, I was the one who was “negligent” for using a supposedly “fixed” awning on a hot day and not being able to predict the wind.

It may be hard to believe, but I did feel bad that the awning fell on my watch. I knew money was an object for the landlords. I was sensitive to their not wanting to spend money. I didn’t object when she had her husband fix it instead of a real repairman. But I was not willing to accept the claim of negligence when I used something that was part of the house on a hot day, as she and her husband had actually said was appropriate use. All I did was unroll it. I wasn’t hanging on it or playing on it or anything like that. And sorry, I can’t predict the wind. I don’t think I’m “negligent” for not being under the awning when it suddenly fell. I think I am damned LUCKY. So is she.

After that exchange, Bill asked her not to speak to me about her concerns. That seemed to piss her off even more, since apparently I made for a convenient scapegoat for her frustrations. But she did leave me alone, for the most part, probably because she could tell I was frighteningly close to losing my shit the last time she yelled at me. I think she could also tell that I could easily match her in intensity and nastiness, if I was really pushed to go there.

It may seem hard to believe, but I genuinely felt terrible when things went wrong. By the time I left that house, I really felt pretty awful. She had done a good job making me feel “guilty” about how “terrible” I am. Even though I was LIVID by the way she treated Bill and me– especially me— the truth is, her comments made me feel bad about myself. I wondered if she was right that I’m a shitty housekeeper and a lazy, worthless person. She didn’t actually say those words to me, and yet that was the message I got– repeatedly.

It took weeks in our current home before I finally felt comfortable. I was anxious for so long, expecting her to come over and complain about some aspect of my housekeeping that displeased her. I knew that she was not our landlady anymore, but yet I expected our new landlord to be like her. I dreaded talking to him because of her. She did real psychological damage to both of us. She falsely accused us of theft and trashing her house, and when Bill asked for a fair accounting of why she was keeping most of our security deposit, she became hostile, nasty, and really laid on the shame and guilt in an attempt to get him to back off. It was absolutely infuriating, especially since Bill is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, and is generous, respectful, and fair to a fault!

I think of so many people whose homes I’ve been in that were genuinely dirty and cluttered far worse than mine ever was. I think of all of the people I know who would have blown up with profanities at ex landlady the first time she yelled at them. I think of the people who would think nothing of paying rent late, or not at all. And then I think to myself… “I’m the worst tenant she’s ever had? Really? She’s been lucky.” Karma will fix that.

What she was doing was egregious bullshit… and I can’t help but wonder if we’d been less “nice” and “kind” about her blatantly disrespectful behavior, maybe she might not have so blatantly tried to take advantage of Bill’s good nature. Like, maybe if I’d given into the instinct to yell back at her, she might have not been so totally horrible to us, and we might not have had to sue her. Even after a settlement was reached, it still took months and a nastygram from our lawyer before she finally gave us our money.

But we were both trained to accept abuse. I have a much lower threshold than Bill does, but I still have the capacity to overlook bad behavior in the interest of keeping the peace. Maybe that’s not a good policy. I have already told Bill that I don’t ever intend to tolerate that kind of living situation again, but the truth is, sometimes you kind of have to… a lot depends on money, doesn’t it?

Now I am mostly recovered from that experience, aside from some residual anger. There are scars, of course, and I think it’s a pretty fair bet that I won’t be forgetting her. But I realize now that her apparently very negative opinions of me don’t necessarily reflect reality, nor do they apply to how others see me. No matter what, I have basic worth, just as everyone does. Even the worst people in the world usually have at least one person in their lives who love them on some level. And that is as true for me as it is for most people.

There have been other instances in my life where I have left a situation feeling awful about myself. I recently wrote about ghosts of traumatic Christmases past. One of the reasons I swore them off is because so many of them left me feeling horrible. I had to detox from the toxicity for days or weeks, ruminating about the dramas that would erupt among so-called loved ones. All I ever wanted was to live in peace, on my own terms, and as my authentic self. If other people can’t stand me, so be it. But so many people want to change their friends and loved ones, not recognizing their worth and uniqueness. If one has a conscience or any sense of shame, this can be devastating to one’s self-esteem and self-image.

I think this is a skill that is essential for living, learning to accept oneself for being a unique person and having basic worth. But, as we’ve seen, especially since the pandemic started, people are really BIG on judging and shaming others. Judging and shaming people, lecturing them, and not trying to empathize with them is a great way to alienate them and cause them to be even more entrenched in their beliefs. A lot of the judging behavior comes from frustration, of course. In terms of the pandemic, we’re all tired of hearing about sickness and death, being subjected to restrictions, rules, and talk of overwhelmed healthcare facilities. Many people are truly frightened, especially those who have lost loved ones and friends to the sickness.

I’ve read so many comments from people who say that they have no more empathy. They have no more patience. And when someone dies of COVID, especially if they were unvaccinated, some of them even LAUGH about it. I guess I can understand why people feel like that and act that way, but I don’t think that attitude does anything to change behavior or inspire cooperation. People tend to focus more on their egos and injured pride than the frustration and despair that drives some of the more judgmental behaviors. I’m as guilty of that as a lot of people are, although I try not to be that way. I just don’t think it helps. We’re all human, though…

I’m even sure that, on some level, our former landlady believed the lies she told herself. Or maybe, from her perspective, we really are filthy, dishonest, thieving, unhygienic people who don’t respect other people’s property. But no one else has ever said that about us. And our current landlord has cheerfully told us we’re welcome to stay as long as we want. That’s a nice vote of confidence.

I felt good yesterday when I fixed the faucet in the downstairs bathroom all by myself. It was easy to do. But as I was doing the work– descaling the tap with white vinegar and removing the calcium buildup that had blocked the spigot– I couldn’t help but think of the way the landlady made comments that were intended to make me feel small, negligent, and incompetent. I know that they weren’t a reflection of reality. It was gaslighting, intended to make me more inclined to accept her abuse and her assessment of me and my “shortcomings”.

Fortunately, I’ve already been through therapy. 😉 It’s hard to believe we paid over $2000 a month for that treatment from the former landlady. We should have “fired” her after the first year. Life is short. Lesson learned.

Quote Investigator says that Twitter user debihope apparently constructed this popular quote, which has been falsely attributed to Sigmund Freud and William Gibson, among others.

So… if you take anything valuable from today’s post, I hope it includes the idea that other people’s apparent negative views of you might not be rooted in reality. In fact, they may be their attempts to train you to accept their abuse. Take their comments and opinions for what they’re worth… definitely with a grain of salt. Do what you can to protect yourself, and protect your sense of self-worth. After all, as Janis Ian shares in an unattributed quote, “Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth…” Wise words indeed. Don’t forget them.

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Duggars, narcissists, poor judgment, psychology, religion

Ben Seewald is currently in the dog house. History shows it’s a familiar place for him.

Well… I thought I might have a non Duggar topic for today, but all I can think about this morning is that clip I saw of Ben Seewald and Jim Bob Duggar interacting at Jill and Derick Dillard’s 2014 nuptials. And since I’ve recently been watching videos about body language, I think I’ll just go with what’s in my head this morning. In a manner of speaking, writing about Ben Seewald is kind of a change of pace. I don’t usually pick on him. I’ll try to be gentle.

A little mood music for this post. It’s inappropriate and rude, so be warned. This song is stuck in my head.

Here goes…

Yesterday, I wrote a post about how Jim Bob Duggar is facing a “difficult season”. His eldest son, Josh, is sitting in the county jail awaiting sentencing for his crimes against children. He lost his bid to run for an Arkansas Senate seat. And now, his son-in-law, Derick Dillard, who is married to his formerly beloved Jilly Muffin, is slamming him publicly on social media. Derick Dillard had some very “choice” words for his wife’s father. I shared them in yesterday’s post, but for the sake of simplicity, I will share them again in this post.

Dayum, Derick… tell us how you really feel!

The other day, I wrote another post in which I commented on The Transformed Wife’s assertions that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are “very good parents”. Now, I don’t agree with that at all, and you “regulars” probably already know why. I’ve explained many times why I think the Duggar parents are frauds and grifters. They have been using their children to bankroll their hypocritical “fundie Christian” platform for way too many years. I think a lot of their “Christian” ideals are put on for the cameras. Christianity serves as a facade for what I believe is really Jim Bob’s narcissistic mini cult. Today’s post about Ben Seewald highlights an example of what I mean.

In the post I wrote two days ago about Jim Bob’s and Michelle’s alleged “very good” parenting, I included a video of Jill’s and Derick’s wedding episode on 19 Kids and Counting. When that video originally aired, I remember being absolutely floored as I watched Jim Bob, Derick, and the rest of the male part of the wedding party getting dressed. There was a subtle incident in that episode that I think pretty much sums up Ben’s relationship with Jim Bob and, quite frankly, his wife, Jessa. The interaction I’m referring to happened very quickly. It was so fast that a lot of people probably missed it. I haven’t seen anyone else bring up this incident prior to today. But, to me, it speaks volumes…

Anyway, here’s what happened. Jim Bob and Michelle were watching everybody getting dressed for the wedding. They both spotted Ben Seewald, who was, at that point, just “courting” Jessa. Ben was wearing a black tie. Michelle Duggar was wearing an absolutely hideous silver dress that I think makes her look like a fish. Not surprisingly, Michelle bragged about getting that dress from the clearance rack. It’s obvious to me why that dress was on clearance. Michelle then commented that Ben needed to iron his necktie. The tie, which appeared to be cheap and made of polyester, was a bit rumpled. Jim Bob agreed with Michelle…

I remember trying to find video of the above incident some time ago. I knew it was in Jill’s and Derick’s wedding episode, but I kept missing it. It’s very easy to overlook this interaction, since it lasts just a few seconds. However, given what has happened to this family since 2014, I think this incident is quite profound. Below is a YouTube video of the wedding episode. You can see this ridiculous and cringeworthy interaction for yourself at around the 41-42 minute mark.

Fun times.

Now… the other day, I briefly mentioned this “necktie” incident, but that was before Derick wrote his Facebook post slamming Jim Bob for being a verbally abusive and manipulative liar, and a complete hypocrite. After Derick posted his strongly worded comments that directly called out Jim Bob, Ben came back with this rather “bitchy” and passive aggressive rebuke that sort of indirectly calls out Derick for being “rude”. He claims being “rude” is being “weak”. I don’t know how Ben finds the nerve to call Derick “weak”, when he can’t even address him by name and has to hide behind the Bible… and he literally lets their father-in-law lead him around like a dog while they’re on camera!

Um… don’t you think Derick has the right to be rude to Jim Bob, given what happened to his WIFE, Ben? Where are your balls? In Jim Bob’s dog house? Or in Jessa’s purse?

I don’t usually pick on Ben too much, although I remember thinking, when he and Jessa started “courting”, that Jessa could do better. He seemed so young, immature, and, frankly, kind of wimpy. I thought Jessa would go for someone a little more assertive. But hell, I don’t know Jessa or what turns her on. I have noticed that she tends to be snarkier than a lot of her sisters. It seems pretty clear to me that in spite of Ben’s alleged biblically “superior” gender and his supposed role as “protector” and headship, Jessa is the one who rules the roost. And you know, that’s fine, if that’s how it works best for them as a couple. But I do think that Ben made a fool of himself with the above post. He clearly lacks a spine and perspective.

Remember this, Ben? (and Jim Bob)

Instead of calling out Derick in a straightforward way, using his own words, Ben relies solely on scripture and a “bitchy”, peevish tone. He seems to have completely missed the point, hasn’t he? Jim Bob is partially responsible for the fact that Josh Duggar was allowed to abuse his sisters and a babysitter, along with God only knows how many other young females. Jim Bob, supposed headship, protector, provider, and megadick almighty, did not live up to the role that he claims is so important, according to Bill Gothard’s principles. Jim Bob failed to lead and protect his own family in his own household. Then Jim Bob had the nerve to try to inflict the rest of Arkansas with his spineless, self-serving, misogynistic and money grubbing agenda by running for public office, which thank God he did not succeed in winning.

And now, following his father-in-law’s toxic example, instead of standing up to Derick in an assertive way, Ben Seewald snivels, passive aggressively hiding behind Bible verses, and not directly addressing anyone in particular. But we all know he’s throwing shade at Derick for speaking out against Big Daddy Duggar. I can practically picture Ben’s pissed, humiliated facial expression captured in the screenshots above, as I see him posting the above rebuke to his brother-in-law.

What the hell, Ben? Where are your priorities?

Ben is supposedly studying to be a pastor. He works for Jim Bob. He lives in a house owned by Jim Bob. It’s too small for his growing family, but instead of going out and getting what he needs, he relies on Boob and sticks up for him when another son-in-law justifiably criticizes Jim Bob. Ben needs to grow up and reclaim his balls. He needs to get a life, “leave and cleave”, and stop being such a goddamned bitch, doing it “doggy style” for Jim Bob. Even if he doesn’t agree with Derick, Ben should own up to it and address Derick directly, like a man.

I’m not the only one who has noticed how wimpy Ben Seewald has a tendency to be. It’s being discussed in the Duggar Family News community. Katie Joy has also tackled it, although I started writing this post before I listened to her video. I pretty much agree with Katie on this. Ben has missed the point, and he’s totally calling out the wrong person. Ben doesn’t want to piss off Daddy Duggar, because Daddy Duggar is bankrolling his lifestyle. But what a yucky way to have to live! Who wants to kiss Jim Bob’s ass for the rest of their lives? Derick clearly is more mature and courageous than his brother-in-law, Ben, is. I think if Boob had tried to lead Derick by the tie, Derick would have knocked the hell out of him. Maybe he would have done it verbally instead of physically, but he would not have let Jim Bob treat him like that.

For more on this…

Again, I really don’t know what the dynamic is like between Ben and the rest of the Duggars. It almost seems like Ben should have taken Jessa’s last name, though. He’s definitely showing signs of submission, which is not necessarily a bad thing, even in a man. But I do think that if one is submissive, one should embrace that and OWN it. Ben’s attempt at being “manly” by calling Derick “rude” is PATHETIC. Either man up and be assertive, or keep being a submissive lap dog. If I could, I would say this to Ben…

Ben– for God’s sake, your WIFE was molested, as a young girl, by her brother in Jim Bob’s house. And Jim Bob did NOTHING to fix the problem! Look at where Josh is! Maybe if Jim Bob had gotten his son arrested as a teenager, he might still be in jail. Or, maybe if he’d hooked Josh up with a therapist, Josh might still have offended. But at least he would have TRIED!!!! Ben, why the hell are you defending Jim Bob? He didn’t defend your wife– his own daughter– when it was clearly his responsibility to do so, under your own religious beliefs! Derick may be “rude”, but at least he cares about his wife, and he clearly LOVES and protects her. That’s a real man who doesn’t do it “doggy style”.

I have repeatedly stated on this blog that abuse thrives in secrecy, especially child abuse. I know it goes against what a lot of people think of as “polite behavior” when other people air their “dirty laundry”, but abusers THRIVE on people who don’t want to make a scene, upset the apple cart, or rock the boat. Abusive people demand that their victims be silent and keep their secrets. They use shame and humiliation to keep their victims down so they can continue to manipulate, exploit, and abuse others. Jim Bob is clearly very narcissistic, and Ben has signed on as one of his “flying monkeys”… or, perhaps he’s more of a lap dog. Either way, it’s pathetic, and it will eventually lead Ben down the road to ruin. He’s following a loser, and the loser will not take him anywhere worth going.

People who speak out against bad behavior may seem “rude” and obnoxious. I have been called “bitter”, “petty”, and “snotty” myself, for calling out certain abusers in my life and writing about them in this blog. However, I’ve also noticed that fewer people try to abuse me because I simply don’t tolerate it anymore. I would rather suffer or cause someone else some embarrassment, than tolerate abuse, exploitation, and disrespect.

Being an abuse victim is unhealthy and unworkable. If not being silent means people like me less, so be it. I’d rather have genuine people in my life who have real regard for me, than someone who just hangs around because I keep their secrets and do their bidding.

It seems to me that Derick Dillard has similar opinions to mine, when it comes to showing and receiving basic respect. Good for him for being a real man, instead of acting like another one of Jim Bob’s lap dogs. And may Ben find and CLAIM his balls very soon, instead of just playing with them when Jim Bob and Jessa give him permission and hiding behind posting passive aggressive Bible verses on Facebook.

And here’s a link to Red Peters’ hilarious album that provided the “mood music” for today. As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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narcissists, poor judgment, psychology, YouTube

Gearing up for the big smear…

This morning, I watched a very interesting video by famed YouTube personality, Dr. Les Carter. I’ve written about his videos before, and I’ve reviewed two of his books. In fact, I am in the middle of reading another book by Dr. Carter that I hope to review before long. Maybe I’ll even finish it today, since the weather is dependably shitty for late fall in Germany.

The video I watched this morning is called “How Narcissists Build A Case Against You”. It’s all about the dreaded “smear campaign” that usually happens when a narcissist either wants to discard you, or get you back in line. Never forget that narcissists crave control, and they want to be in charge of the narrative, which will always be that they are never wrong, don’t make mistakes, and when something unfortunate does inevitably happen, it’s never their fault, and they are always the victim. On the exceedingly rare occasions when a narcissist takes responsibility, they will virtually always try to shift the blame somehow or make an excuse.

Really interesting viewing for a Sunday morning.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you might know that Bill and I have both had our ins and outs with narcissists. Bill has had a worse time of it than I have, mainly because he has a tendency to be a people pleaser. I am not as nice as he is, so I don’t tend to attract narcissists, or if I do attract them, I turn them off pretty quickly. But because I’m Bill’s wife, I’ve had dealings with narcissists who have been attracted to him. Our most recent narcissistic dealings happened in our last town, where we were caught in an incredibly weird predicament in which our landlady and her former tenant were working together to shame us into letting the ex landlady illegally rip off our security deposit.

We were in a unique situation, because I am a blogger and I tend to be pretty open in the topics I write about. The former tenant was monitoring me, posing as someone who was actually interested in the subject matter, rather than just a common spy/flying monkey. But in retrospect, when I first met ex landlady and former tenant, I had a bad feeling. I ignored that feeling because the summer of 2014 was especially difficult for us.

Bill had retired from the Army that year, and we had been uncertain about his job prospects. Then we made an international move. My father had suddenly died, and we had somewhat fresh memories of our first move to Germany, which had involved living in a very basic and pretty horrible hotel for six weeks. We just wanted to settle somewhere and get back to a normal life. So, when we met ex landlady and former tenant, even though I noticed some things were “off” about them, I brushed those thoughts aside. A couple of months ago, we passed our anniversary of having moved into that house. I had posted on Facebook “The new landlords seem nice. Let’s hope it’s not just an act.” In retrospect, that was pretty damning… and even then, I pretty much knew that we were going to be in for a hard time.

It started off subtly and slowly, just as Les Carter describes it. Former landlady and ex tenant were both nice at first. However, I noticed from the outset that ex landlady was not trusting, and had some apparent control issues. I mostly chalked it up to the local culture. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. There was even a period during which I could even say she was likable. Former tenant had come off as a bit “oily”, selling us the stuff she didn’t want to take with her, which for all I know, was left there by former tenants. But she was otherwise basically pleasant, even if she was a bit weird about money. Bill had asked her about an energy bill and she was very adamant that it wasn’t her responsibility. Maybe it wasn’t, but her vehement reaction to his innocent question was more over the top than was necessary.

As time went on, I started making more connections and noticing things. Former landlady was becoming less reasonable. Some things went wrong in the house. I had been on the receiving end of more than one screaming tirade, rife with accusations about what an irresponsible person I was, how terrible my housekeeping is, and how they’d NEVER had problems like that before– which I don’t believe, and now know can never be true again. If ex landlady ever tells another tenant that, she will be lying. But it’s now my guess that she lied to me repeatedly, and unabashedly. Former tenant joined in the fun and games with lies of her own. A big red flag was that she’d often leave me comments on my posts, but then delete them. She didn’t want them biting her in the ass later. But she didn’t delete all of them, and her undeleted comments later came in handy.

Ex landlady’s behavior was very disrespectful and more than a bit puzzling. My husband is a well-regarded, highly responsible, and kind person. He was the one dealing with ex landlady, but she would often direct her abusive diatribes toward me. So yes, I was confused and anxious about the situation, because at first, I wondered if I really was the problem. I later realized that ex landlady was just trying to justify taking our money, and she and former tenant had both obviously learned from prior experiences that being accusatory and shaming toward “kind” people is an effective way to get what they want. And that was especially infuriating, because although landlord/tenant situations are almost always kind of awkward, we had never before been accused of the things ex landlady accused us of. Certainly not as a married couple.

The only exception for me, personally, was when I lived in Armenia and rented an apartment for about a year from a lady who had worked for the Peace Corps. As I was about to finish my Peace Corps service, she tried to accuse me of not paying her rent one month. That wasn’t true, and I could prove it, but she thought she could strong arm me into paying her for an extra month, because in those days I was a lot more easily upset than I am now. One Friday night, I came home from a night out to find her and her father waiting for me. They had let themselves into the apartment and were sitting there smoking when I came home, waiting to confront me over the month’s rent they claimed I didn’t pay. But her father came every month and I always paid him. I had proof, because I kept a daily journal and mentioned his visits. I also had receipts of the money I collected for rent from teaching English at an NGO.

She asked, “How do I know you didn’t just spend the money the NGO paid for the rent?”

But I could have asked her and her father the same thing. I gave him the money on her behalf, because she was studying in Hungary. He didn’t give me receipts, because that wasn’t how things were done at that time. How do I know what he did with the money after I paid him? The amount of rent we were discussing was just $100 a month, and she probably figured that as an American, that was chump change for me. But in those days, that was a lot of money for me, since I only got paid about $5 a day as Peace Corps Volunteer. My parents weren’t giving me money, and I didn’t have savings. And besides, she HAD been paid. She was just trying to intimidate me by shaming and humiliating me.

I think she saw me as a rich American who would simply pay her to shut her up. She did get me so upset that I hyperventilated in front of her, which made her so uncomfortable that she left. She obviously saw me as weak. But she was definitely wrong about my alleged weakness, and she did not get an extra month’s rent from me. Come to think of it, ex landlady acted a lot like my former Armenian landlady did. I heard the same complaints from both women about my housekeeping, since I’m admittedly a bit of slob.

Now, I’m not a dirty slob. I do take the trash out, wash the dishes, clean the toilets, sinks, and showers, change the sheets, mow the lawn, and pick up the dog crap (when I can see it). But I don’t dust compulsively, wash windows, vacuum every day, put my clothes away, or make my bed each morning. Ex landlady is evidently compulsively neat, and I think she was upset that I’m not like that. Former Armenian landlady had also noticed I’m not compulsively neat, because she would let herself in the apartment when I wasn’t there and let her son eat my food… and leave dirty dishes in the refrigerator, no less. If either of these women were that concerned about neatness, they should have mentioned it before agreeing to rent out their property. Or, they could have simply respected my privacy. That way, we both could have avoided heartache.

Anyway, one day, I wrote about the weird situation with ex the landlady on my old blog. It wasn’t so much that I had a habit of writing about former landlady. I would say that, until things went really south, on the rare occasions when I mentioned her, I mostly wrote positive things about her. It wasn’t until she started verbally abusing and accusing me that I wrote anything negative. But when she really started to behave offensively, I was legitimately confused and wondered about it. I mentioned it offhand in a blog post. I wrote about two or three sentences about the situation– mildly questioning and hardly accusatory, now that I think about it.

I thought about the sketchy story former tenant told us about why she and her husband were moving mid tour. They had a brand new baby, and claimed they needed to be closer to work. That, I could understand, since the house was pretty far out from the installations. But then she’d added that they needed to be closer to their babysitter, which sounded like a lame excuse. I probably would have been less suspicious of her story if she’d just said she needed to be closer to work.

At the same time, I noticed the former landlady was doting on the baby, and I knew, having been an Army wife for years, that the military typically doesn’t pay for people to move mid tour unless there’s a damned good reason, and it involves health, safety, or mission readiness. Also, she swore the landlords were “excellent” and like parents to her… and yet they couldn’t help her find a suitable local nanny so their very functional and family like business relationship could continue? Hmm…

After thinking about her story, I realized it was probably at least 95% bullshit. So I mentioned it casually in a very brief way in a blog post. I didn’t realize ex tenant was still reading the blog at that point. I didn’t even blame her for moving. Having dealt with the frequent unannounced visits and uncomfortable interactions I had with the ex landlady, I figured ex tenant had dealt with similar issues and wanted more privacy and professionalism. Nothing wrong with that.

Former tenant left me a sternly worded comment, which she later deleted, claiming that my speculation was all wrong. She shamed me for doubting her, and asked me to delete references to her involvement in our declining situation. I didn’t fight her on it, because I wasn’t wanting to argue with her. I just didn’t think things added up. But, I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. I knew she was concerned about her online footprint. In retrospect, I should have seen what she was doing for what it was… classic gaslighting. She was asking me to deny what I was seeing with my own eyes and knew from personal experience. She was very firm about it, and didn’t even seem to understand how I could have possibly come to the conclusions I had. But because I didn’t want a conflict with her, I allowed her to do that, and edited my post. That doesn’t mean I believed her story, or didn’t see that she was clearly up to no good.

Former tenant also claimed she didn’t want me to involve her in my speculation about what was happening. However, even though she didn’t want me to involve her by even casually mentioning her in a blog post, she was actually choosing to be involved and actively meddling in our business. She was sharing my blog with ex landlady and her daughter, and the three of them were probably gossiping and smearing the hell out of me, and coming up with ways to screw with us. She later even admitted to me that she was doing that, and was bold enough to think I would feel ashamed instead of extremely pissed off at her. She must have really taken me for a sucker. I could probably forgive her for gossiping, but having the audacity to admit it to me was a bridge too far, especially since she was so concerned about her own privacy and reputation.

The fact that she continued to monitor my blog, even years after she’d moved out of the house is a red flag, especially since she made it clear that she doesn’t like me and apparently doesn’t even think I’m a good writer. I base that last bit on the nasty private message she sent me, again shaming me for daring to object to the ex landlady’s abuse and false accusations, and the sarcastic remark she left about about my creative pursuits. If that’s how she actually felt about me and my writing, why was she still reading?

I think it’s because she wanted to deflect scrutiny from herself. I think ex landlady let her get away with not paying for damages that occurred on her watch. Ex landlady never did a check in with us, and I don’t think she did a check out with the former tenant, since we literally took the keys from her. She was still moving out as we were moving into the house. Ex tenant was likely worried that my speculations would cast doubt on her false persona as an honest and decent person, when it’s pretty clear to me that she’s a liar.

I also think that it’s possible that former tenant doesn’t respect me because, for whatever reason, she doesn’t approve of my lifestyle. I don’t have children or a regular job, so she probably thinks that makes me worthy of contempt. I suspect ex landlady agrees, and in fact, was probably put out that I was always at home, so she couldn’t come over at her leisure and snoop. More than once, she suggested things for me to do outside of the home, even though I never asked her for that kind of help. Neither of them seem to think that writing is a valuable use of my time. But I’m not sure why it matters, as long as the rent was being paid on time. What I do with my time is my concern, right? And even if someone thinks I’m a no-talent hack, shouldn’t I still be entitled to basic courtesy, respect, and privacy? Why is it their business if I write a blog? Of course now I know why they felt it was their business… but it’s pretty easy to stay out of my crosshairs if you aren’t someone who’s in the news. You leave me alone, and I’ll leave you alone.

Bill and I made convenient scapegoats for the fact that the house was in desperate need of renovation. The truth is, it was not very clean when we moved in. And because there was never a check in protocol done, when we moved out, there was no way to prove we hadn’t done the damage she claimed. On the other hand, there was also no proof that we had done the damage. I also had proof that ex landlady made false and defamatory accusations against us– again, because I blog, keep journals, and take many pictures. So much for being a no-talent hack. 😉

So… Bill sued, and ended up prevailing. But the whole situation was very stressful and upsetting. It brought us no joy to pursue legal action. It was the first time Bill had ever sued anyone, and it was definitely not something he enjoyed doing. However, we felt we needed to take that action, because it was so very obvious that we were being taken for suckers. The way we were treated was absolutely terrible and completely undeserved, and we did not want to let her get away with it, for our own sakes and those of people who came after us. Even now, three years after we moved, I’m still angry about it. Those people obviously had no compunction about blatantly ripping us off and defaming us, while trying to deny us the right to respond or process. We bent over backwards to keep the peace in that situation, and we gave the ex landlady every opportunity to settle the situation fairly without involving lawyers and court. She refused to cooperate, and in the end, it cost her.

It’s a mistake to assume someone is weak and stupid simply because they are kind and sensitive, and don’t like conflict. Especially if they make their living planning military exercises, which is what Bill does. It’s literally his job to plan battles. Moreover, while I don’t have a fancy business title, I am not a stupid person, and I’ve done a lot of work over the years to get over the need to “people please”. Anyone who requires “pleasing” and constant appeasement is probably, at best, an asshole who would never return the favor. They certainly aren’t worth the effort of pleasing. For all of her spying and compulsive study of my blog posts, former tenant apparently didn’t realize that. If she’s smart, she will not engage me again. Meanwhile, I will hold on to the lessons I learned in this situation and try to recover from the blows to my psyche that occurred because of this ordeal.

I realize that most people who have dealings with narcissists deal with them on a more personal level. A lot of people get involved in romantic entanglements with narcissists. I can’t even say for sure that we were dealing with two narcissists, or just one narcissist and someone with a different kind of mental health issue. What I do think is that at least one of the people we dealt with was not behaving in a normal or businesslike manner. If that’s the way she treats people who are in a business relationship with her, I can only try to imagine the psychological beating the people who are supposed loved ones likely suffer.

One last comment before I close this post. Former tenant tried to frame a narrative that I habitually drag people through the Internet mud. It’s true that sometimes I do vent, although I very rarely name names. I don’t go out of my way to harass people. You’ll also notice that I don’t write about my current landlord. That’s because he doesn’t give me a reason to vent. He’s our next door neighbor, yet he never bothers us, and as long as he gets his rent money, he doesn’t have a need to meddle. When we eventually move out of this house, I don’t think we’ll have any issues. If we do, I have every faith that they can be settled amicably and fairly. And hopefully, the next time we move, it will be into a home that we own.

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book reviews, narcissists, politicians, politics

A review of I’ll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw at the Trump White House, by Stephanie Grisham…

When Bill isn’t home, our dogs– usually Arran– often wake me up in the middle of the night. After they have their midnight pee or poo break, they come back in and go back to bed. I, then, spend another hour or so, trying to get back to sleep. That’s what happened to me in the wee hours of this morning, when Arran got me up TWICE— once to pee, and once to poo, and both times, demanded a cookie reward for doing his business. Noyzi, on the other hand, didn’t bark at me through the bedroom door early this morning, as he has the past two mornings, nor did he want to join Arran on his nocturnal potty runs.

It’s because of Arran’s second potty break that I finally finished Stephanie Grisham’s 2021 book, I’ll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw at the Trump White House. While it wasn’t a particularly difficult book to read, it did take me some time to plow through, mainly because I’m not capable of reading as fast as I once was. Nowadays, if I’m reading in bed, I fall asleep. I have to be careful, too, because I usually read on an iPad. I don’t want to get hit in the nose or teeth, or roll over on the iPad and break it. It also took time because I happened to be reading it while we were on vacation, and I was busy doing other things… like watching Netflix and hanging out with Bill.

I hadn’t actually planned to read Stephanie Grisham’s book. I remember reading her comments defending the Trumps when Donald Trump was 45. Many of my regular readers know I despise Donald Trump, and I’d like to forget about him. Still, I have found myself drawn to books written by people who worked for him at the White House (there is no working with him— the man is a raging narcissist and thinks he is the most important person alive). I did read Stephanie Winston Wolkoff’s book, Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady. I figured I might as well give Stephanie Grisham’s book a chance.

So now I’ve read it… and I have to say, for the most part, it wasn’t terrible.

Ambitious Stephanie Grisham had always dreamt of being the White House Press Secretary. In 2016, when Trump was running for president, she was a “junior press wrangler”. By 2020, she had worked for both Donald Trump, and his wife, Melania. For a time she simultaneously worked for BOTH Trumps, when Trump hired her to be the White House Press Secretary and Communications Director, and Melania Trump’s Communications Director. Grisham was an extremely rare high profile Trump employee, in that she was there for almost the entire time Trump was in office. She finally quit on January 6, 2021, in the wake of the attack on the Capitol, as pro Trump rioters breached one of our country’s most beautiful and recognizable government buildings in an attempt to prevent the 2020 presidential election results from being certified.

Having read Grisham’s book, and about all of the frustrations and mistreatment she no doubt faced, particularly at the hands of some of her male co-workers, I’m surprised it took her so long to finally throw in the towel. But Grisham has an explanation. She, like so many of us, was “trained” to take abuse from people, and she got unusually good at doing that. And she also claims that she’s a Republican and believed in what Trump was doing. She writes that he had some good policies, although she doesn’t really spell out which specific policies she thought were so good.

This book isn’t really about Donald Trump’s policies, though. It’s about what it was like to work for the Trumps. Grisham writes about what it was like to fly on Air Force One, which took the Trumps and their entourage on exotic foreign trips– at one point, meeting the British Royal Family, at another, visiting four countries in Africa. Much of what Grisham writes seems to be more about working for Melania, which I got the impression she did longer than working for Trump himself.

There were a few instances in the book in which Grisham seemed to want to be friends with Melania, but Melania apparently wasn’t interested. For instance, one day Melania seemed kind of depressed. Grisham invited her to take a walk on the beach, as if they were friends. Melania wanted to know if there would be photographers there. Grisham then found herself trying to arrange an impromptu photo shoot with real photographers. Throughout the book, Grisham mentions how beautiful and stylish Melania is, as if she really admires her, in spite of Melania’s hot and cold treatment of her and eventually being completely discarded by the former First Lady when the Trump era ended.

Incidentally, Grisham mentions Stephanie Winston Wolkoff’s book on more than one occasion. I get the sense there’s no love lost between those two. However, I also get the sense that both of them fancied themselves “close friends” of Melania’s. It’s almost as if they’re jealous of each other (Wolkoff also mentions Grisham in her book). Wolkoff eventually realizes that Melania is no friend to anyone. Grisham, conversely, seems to hold out hope that she and Melania could one day be besties or something. Spoiler alert– it ain’t happening. Melania is into herself, and maybe her son, Barron. That’s about it.

I’m being honest when I write that Grisham comes off as a likable person to me, probably because she uses a lot of profanity. I mean… she uses a LOT of cuss words, including the “f” word. As much as I like cussing myself, that was one aspect of her writing that I noticed and thought detracted a bit from her manuscript, especially given that she’s a journalist. On the other hand, she writes as if she’s having a conversation, which I also tend to do. And if cursing is something she does in her natural voice, maybe it IS appropriate, in terms of her authentic voice. I think if I had to work for either of the Trumps to make a living, I would cuss a lot too. And I would probably drink a lot more… which would not be a good thing. However, while the profanity makes Grisham seem more relatable to me, it also makes her seem less polished and professional. I guess that makes sense in Trump’s White House, given his penchant for “pussy grabbing”.

Grisham offers some details about some of the Trumps’ most notorious moments in the press, as well as Jared and Ivanka, whom she collectively refers to as Javanka. Like Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, she refers to Ivanka alone as “the princess”. Barron gets one mention at the end of the book, and she paints him in a good light. The other Trump kids are described as entitled brats, for the most part– but especially Ivanka. Grisham doesn’t seem impressed with Jared Kushner, either.

Toward the end of Grisham’s book, she writes about an abusive romantic relationship she was involved in with another Trump staffer. She doesn’t identify the man, but she does describe him, and her description of him certainly paints the picture of a classic abuser. This was a man she’d lived with, and even adopted a dog with, and at the end of their relationship, he turned out to be a total dick. One night, she got very upset and hung out with some friends. Another friend brought over some wine and encouraged Grisham to take an Ambien, which she did. It promptly knocked her out cold. Next thing she knew, she was being asked if she was okay by two guys in her bedroom. They were from the Secret Service. Her friend got worried and called the White House. They got the idea that she was suicidal.

At the same time she was reeling from her breakup, Grisham was also dealing with Mark Meadows, one of Trump’s many former Chiefs of Staff. Meadows made Grisham’s life hellish, and basically fired her from working with Trump. Although Grisham had supposedly wanted to keep the Ambien incident quiet, word got out, which is probably why she addresses it in her book. Meadows also got wind of it and was apparently quite the bastard about it, and a lot of other things. Make no mistake about it; Grisham and Mark Meadows are definitely not on good terms.

As she sums up her time fulfilling her ambitions of being the White House Press Secretary, among other things, Grisham discloses her own personal epiphany. She realizes that she has been well-trained to tolerate abuse, especially from men. She says she was abused by her White House boyfriend, by Mark Meadows, and even by Trump. She wrote that she’d gotten used to men being mean to her, calling her names, and treating her like a doormat. I must say, I was a little surprised that she hadn’t seen Trump as an abuser ages ago, especially since she’s a journalist. One of the main reasons why I despise Trump so much is because it’s so OBVIOUS to me that he’s abusive. It was very clear that Trump was an abuser, even in the 1980s, which is when I first heard of Trump.

I remember, in 2016, reading an article about the 1993 book, Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump by Harry Hurt III. Within that article, there was an excerpt from the book about an incident that occurred between Donald Trump and his first wife, Ivana. It basically described Trump as having raped his first wife. I was horrified, and decided to read and review the book for myself, which I did, back in April 2017. You can find my repost here. Below is a screenshot of the passage in the article from The New Yorker that I read about Trump’s little domestic violence episode. This attack is also described in Hurt’s book.

Name calling… yet another one of Trump’s least attractive qualities that is constantly on display. I think the fact that he blatantly abuses women should have disqualified Trump from running. He should have been arrested, instead.

Stephanie Grisham seems to like Melania, even though Melania hasn’t said a word to her since the day Grisham quit her job. She does state that both Donald and Melania basically use people and discard them when they are no longer useful. In that sense, they’re both narcissists. However, Melania apparently comes off as a more “human” and less extreme version of a narcissist. Melania is probably more of a garden variety narcissist, while Trump is an obvious, off-the-chain, malignant narcissist. He was put into power by people who are probably actual sociopaths and are a hell of a lot more intelligent and cunning than Trump will ever be. I know there are snakes on both sides of the political spectrum, but the Republicans have really shown their asses in a dangerous way. It saddens me that so many Americans have fallen for it, hook, line, and sinker.

At the end of the book, Grisham does concede that she wished another Republican, other than Donald Trump, could have run for president in 2020. I can understand that. Before Trump took office, I had some sympathy for the conservative cause. However… as far as I am concerned, Trump has ruined the Republican Party. I think it’s unlikely I will vote Republican ever again. Grisham, on the other hand, still says she’s a Republican, and at times, even seems to apologize for the Trumps– including Donald, but especially Melania.

Below are a couple of insightful excerpts from Grisham’s epilogue (bolded emphases are mine):

IT HAS OCCURRED TO me as I’ve been writing that I seem to be blaming everyone but myself for how things turned out for me in the White House, especially in the last six months. According to me I was the victim of covid, of Meadows and his people, of my ex, of the former East Wing chief of staff, of some of my own East Wing staff, of some West Wing senior staff, of the president, and even of the first lady at the very end. And although the stories I have laid out are all true and it was very much a perfect storm of certain personalities coming together in opposition to me, I don’t feel that I am a victim who did no wrong. It is my fervent belief that when you are the common denominator in situations like this, you need to look within and determine where your own responsibility lies. People need to hold themselves accountable to situations so that they can learn from them and apply them in the next chapter of life, and that includes me.

I think the first part is obvious: I became heady with power. I got cocky. You get inside the walls of the White House, the most important building in the country and arguably the world, and you are catered to like nowhere else. You go in wanting to help the people of the United States, but I don’t think many people in the Trump administration left there as the best versions of themselves; I know I did not.

Grisham, Stephanie. I’ll Take Your Questions Now (p. 326). Harper. Kindle Edition.

AND

I did think somebody needed to stick around to look out for Mrs. Trump. I was loyal to her personally, and I didn’t want her to be staffed by incompetent or untrustworthy people who didn’t have her best interests at heart. And as she had most always been good to me, I felt gratitude. But her apathy in response to the January 6 riots made it hard for me to stay at the very end.

I also turned a blind eye toward my own falling into a trap I saw over and over again: believing I was a trusted and valued member of Trump World. The plain truth is that most of the Trump family dismisses and cuts people from their lives on a whim. They demand total loyalty, but they are loyal to no one. I don’t blame them, to be honest. They are businesspeople, and business should not be personal. Some people learned that once and walked away; others kept going back for more, and there are many who are still doing it. I allowed my ego to grow in such a way that I never considered that the Trumps would allow me to be treated poorly. I put myself onto the same level as Hope Hicks, Dan Scavino, even Javanka, and that was ludicrous. Mrs. Trump did defend me when she could, and privately she always told me of her anger on my behalf, but I’m not sure it ever went farther than that, and I wrongly expected that it should have.

Finally, and most importantly, I should have spoken up more.

Grisham, Stephanie. I’ll Take Your Questions Now (pp. 326-327). Harper. Kindle Edition.

A lot of narcissistic, abusive people rise to meteoric heights and great fame, with many loyal, hardworking people like Stephanie Grisham working tirelessly and thanklessly to put, and keep, them in power. But not every successful person is like this, nor should they be. These are not qualities that are healthy or desirable in world leaders. Until Stephanie Grisham recognizes and acknowledges that, I fear that she’ll keep making the same mistakes… and allow her ambition to blind her to toxic behaviors from others that will simply make her miserable. More importantly, these behaviors also make innocent people miserable… including the folks who went to the Capitol in January of this year, mistakenly thinking Trump would reward their loyalty by pardoning them for the crimes they committed on his behalf.

Grisham said it herself– the Trumps expect loyalty, “but they are loyal to no one.” Trump even ominously told this to Grisham straight up, when he said to her “I am the only one who matters.” I really think Stephanie Grisham should think about that, and reevaluate her idea of what makes appropriate and effective leaders… or even appropriate people to have in her private life. In order to be a great leader, the leader must care about other people and be a decent person themselves. Otherwise, they’re just power hungry toxic people who use others and spit them out when they’re deemed worthless. They’re just like parasites. And they aren’t even polite or kind about it. At one point, Grisham writes that Trump asked her Grisham’s ex boyfriend if Grisham was “good in bed.” When they later broke up, Trump wanted the details, and didn’t seem to care that Grisham was obviously upset and crying about her pain. Trump has no empathy, and that makes him unworthy of anyone’s vote or attention or anything else.

The fact that Grisham recognizes that the Trumps dismiss and cut people from their lives is a positive step in the right direction. However, I think she still has some work to do, because in the next sentence, she writes that she doesn’t blame them. In fact, there are several times in her book that Grisham makes excuses, not just for the Trumps, but for herself. I recall reading more than once that Grisham had gotten DUIs– maybe it was only one, but I know there was at least one– but she basically explains that she got caught drinking and driving after hanging out with her girlfriends, and blows it off as if it’s not a big deal. Then, there was the Ambien incident, apparently after she’d enjoyed some wine. Maybe she should also seek some professional attention regarding her use of substances.

So… that about does it for my review. I’m not sorry I read I’ll Take Your Questions Now, even though I initially wasn’t inclined to read the book. I don’t agree with Stephanie Grisham’s politics, but I appreciate her decision to share her story. I think Stephanie Grisham is, deep down, an okay, but deeply flawed person… maybe even someone I’d enjoy talking to, in spite of her politics and deep flaws. After all, most of us are deeply flawed. What can I say? I still have Republican friends and family members.

I just hope Stephanie Grisham finds herself a good therapist and explores her own self worth more. My friend Audra shared these two thoughts on Facebook yesterday. If Stephanie Grisham ever reads my review, I hope she’ll read them and take them to heart. Based on her book, I think these are lessons she should practice a bit more.

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divorce, LDS, mental health, narcissists, psychology

You CAN’T cross a narcissist’s chasm! It’s just a mirage!

Here’s another very personal post from yours truly. It’s not for people who don’t want to read deep thoughts. I’m sharing this, because I know there are a lot of people out there who are struggling in narcissistic relationships. I hope this offers some insight to those who are hurting.

Mood music for this piece…

This morning, Bill brought up some imagery he’s often used when he talks about his relationship with his narcissistic ex wife. He said that he imagined his ex wife on one side of a chasm with everyone else he loved– his kids, his ex stepson, extended family members, church people, and even his parents. And he was on the other side of the chasm, standing there all alone and miserable. Ex encouraged him to come over the chasm to join his loved ones. He could do that by changing into whatever her image of the perfect man was. Only if he did that, would he ever be able to join his loved ones on the other side of the chasm. But she was happy for him to keep trying to reach that goal, and she would always encourage him to try, even though it was an impossible feat.

After some wasted time spent trying to cross the divide, Bill finally wisely understood that if he’d ever actually crossed the chasm, he would cease to be who he is. Who he is, is not a bad person. Ex had made some unreasonable demands that he dance to her tune. She wanted him to seek counseling from an LDS bishop for his “hatred of women” (which doesn’t now, and never has existed). He refused to do it. In retrospect, he was wise not to agree to counseling with the bishop, since LDS bishops are not usually trained counselors. They’re unpaid laypeople who have professional jobs. He could have wound up spilling his guts to an accountant. Besides, he’s neither a pervert, nor a misogynist. Having been his wife for almost 19 years, I can attest to that fact.

Ex subsequently demanded a divorce, while the family was visiting Bill’s father and stepmother. The timing of her demand was surely done on purpose. She probably figured that asking for a divorce at the home of Bill’s dad and stepmother would make Bill think twice about agreeing to the split. She may have been thinking that he would acquiesce and do her bidding in order to save their marriage for eternity. I’m sure it was driven home that they were not on neutral territory when she made her demand. She later said that she’d been wanting to drive Bill to “rock bottom”, and show him what he was going to be giving up. I think Ex probably needs to work on her threats. A marriage to someone who deliberately sabotages their partners, attempts to shame and humiliate them in front of others, and tells bald faced lies about their characters is not exactly a prize worth anything.

The fact that the divorce stunt was carried out at Easter has always struck me as weirdly symbolic and prophetic. It was as if Bill finally got the opportunity to resurrect his life before it was too late. But then, Bill did something Ex never thought he’d do.

When Ex presented Bill with divorce papers, fully expecting him to cave and agree to her demands, he took her completely by surprise and agreed to divorce, instead. Ex was devastated, because she’d only meant to regain control of Bill. Bill was making responsible adult decisions like going back into the Army and doing work he was qualified for, and would be well paid to do, instead of working in crappy factory shift jobs. Ex knew the Army would, once again, trump her decisions about where they should live, and when Bill would be working. She didn’t want to surrender to that lifestyle again, because she wanted to be in control of everything. To regain control, Ex took some desperate and regrettable measures that ended up backfiring, as many of her harebrained schemes do in the long run.

First, Ex tried to convince Bill that he was a bad person with misogynistic tendencies. I think she knew damned well it wasn’t the truth. The truth is, Bill is kind and generous to a fault. He doesn’t have an abusive bone in his body. Ex, on the other hand, is very abusive. So she just projected herself onto Bill– yet another illusion. Maybe she should have been named Doug Henning! Like all narcissists, she’s a master at creating smoke and mirrors that confuse her targets and distorts their perceptions so that they see things inaccurately.

When Ex suggested that Bill was an abuser, it horrified him. Bill worked hard to prove to her that he wasn’t that person, even though they both knew he’s not abusive. I suspect that Ex was both repulsed and turned on by the way Bill reacted to the idea that he was a monster and his subsequent desperation to prove to her otherwise. I’m sure one part of her wished he would have taken a stand. But the other part of her probably realized that he’d let her change the narrative, and this could be a powerful point of control for her. When he didn’t settle down and give up the idea of going back into the Army, Ex got more desperate. That was when she decided to haul in the big guns and throw out the “D” word– knowing full well that Bill’s parents’ divorce had been very painful for him. She figured he would do anything to avoid a divorce from her and be separated from his children.

Ex never actually meant to end their marriage. At least not at that point. She just wanted to be in control again, and maybe somehow get Bill to change his mind about being in the Army. Or maybe she just wanted to punish and humiliate him for taking back some control over his own life. How dare he?! Either way, if she managed to convince Bill that he was “sick”, damaged, and abusive, and that she was the only woman who would accept him, he would stay with her and never let anyone or anything supersede her authority, including the Army.

This “divorce” stunt, which was supposed to make Bill desperate to appease Ex, had instead forced her into a situation that caused a severe narcissistic injury. She couldn’t backpedal when he said “yes” to her divorce proposal, because that would make the narcissistic injury and subsequent humiliation even worse. So she was forced to ride with Bill on the drive to the notary she’d lined up on Easter morning. It was not the outcome she’d ever expected or wanted. She thought she knew him, but there was still a part of him that he’d kept for himself. I think that’s the part of the situation that upset her the most. All this time, she thought she owned him, not realizing that there was still a little part of him that she didn’t know. I’m sure it enraged her that he’d done the unexpected.

Of course, being a narcissist, Ex only thought she knew Bill. Narcissists never take the time to really get to know anyone. They think they’re special and gifted, so why would they take the time to get to know someone’s heart? The reality is, she really only knew Bill on a superficial level. But she was convinced she had him pegged, and she was certain she knew how he was going to react in that situation. She thought that asking for a divorce while they visited family would pressure Bill into agreeing with her that he’s a monster and a pervert. It turns out Bill has much more self-respect and dignity than she ever realized. She didn’t know, and it was painfully obvious… and in the end, she lost big time.

I’ve heard Bill tell the story about feeling like he was standing alone at a chasm many times. This morning, something new occurred to me. I started thinking about all of the other people in Ex’s life. I have never met Ex in person, but I’ve talked to many people who have known her. She uniformly leaves a lot of angry, confused, and hurt people in her wake. I’ve done enough research about narcissists, and experienced enough of their shit myself, that it dawned on me that Bill must not have been the only one who felt alone and isolated from loved ones.

I suddenly realized that most of those people probably felt the same way Bill did, standing alone on the edge of the chasm, staring longingly at all of their loved ones beckoning them to come over the chasm to join the narcissist’s team. That means that the reality of the situation was, Ex was the one who was alone at the chasm.

Bill was never alone. He was standing there with all of the other people who were being pressured to dance to Ex’s tune and were never quite “good enough” to hang out in the fantasy world. But all of those people had, like Bill, been carefully trained not to ever talk to anyone about how they were feeling. They all had tunnel vision, and were completely unaware that she had a slew of people gazing across the chasm at her fantasy world.

I looked at Bill and blurted out, “She had you fooled. You weren’t standing alone on the chasm. She was. She was the one staring longingly at all of the people on the other side, wanting to join them. But instead of trusting people, being genuinely loving and caring, and making them want to join her because she’s truly a good person, she used lies, threats, manipulation, and devaluation to isolate her victims and make them think they’re alone.”

I am willing to bet that if Bill asked some of Ex’s other victims if they ever felt like they were standing alone at a chasm, more than one of them would say they did. If at least one other person felt like Bill did, that means he wasn’t alone. There were others there with him.

Much like the late Doug Henning was, Ex is a master of illusion… and she also has a similar hairstyle.

The narcissist is very good at convincing people that he or she is the “good one”, who has everyone’s approval. The victims are “bad” and standing alone at the chasm, desperate to make it to the party. But the reality is, it’s not the victims who are alone. Narcissists usually have many victims, and they make every single one of them feel like they’re alone. The truth is, it’s the narcissist who’s alone, and desperately trying to connect. They create a fantasy mirage that looks appealing to their confused and traumatized victims, who are made to feel like they have to cross the chasm. But crossing is impossible.

Narcissists are never actually satisfied, and always keep their prey at an arm’s length. They’re always keeping their victims fighting to be acceptable, and narcissists have ways of making their victims think they’re worthy of the battle. But the reality is, no matter what the victims do, they’re never quite good enough to join the narcissist’s party on the other side of the fissure. They can’t ever be good enough, because they can’t be the narcissist’s equal.

A narcissist who accepts a victim as having finally done enough to appease them can no longer be in control. Losing control is DEATH to the narcissist, so they’ll always move the goalposts. You will never be good enough for them, and if you don’t wise up and end the relationship, you will die trying to appease them. Or you will lose yourself and become a shell of who you were meant to be. You CAN’T cross the chasm. You can only keep chasing the dream, which is just an illusion… a mirage.

The narcissist makes crossing that chasm seem so attractive. It may even look like it’s easy. All anyone has to do is make the narcissist happy and do what they want. Then they can join the party and be happy with the narcissist, who will finally stop being so mean, critical, and dictatorial. But that will never happen. There’s too much value in the narcissist keeping people wanting what they can’t have. So that chasm will forever remain uncrossed… but it’s really just a mirage, anyway, and probably about as enjoyable as Mormon Heaven is.

The sad thing is, narcissists have a knack for zeroing in on a person’s deepest insecurities and exploiting them for their own gain. They’re masters at triangulating their victims, using other people to present false narratives that make them think they are damaged and at risk of being alone. At the same time, like any garden variety abuser, narcissists isolate their victims, discouraging them from comparing notes while encouraging them to take sides and keep secrets. And so, the victims think they’re alone. But they’re not alone… and they can’t ever get across the chasm. So there’s no use trying. Instead of fighting for something you can never have, it’s better to find (or build) a bridge and get over it.

So ends today’s sermon. Go forth and enjoy your Sunday!

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