Ex, LDS, narcissists, relationships

Carrots and sticks– Ex giveth, and she taketh away…

Today, I’m thinking about how it’s common for narcissists to give and take things away, especially when they are in an intimate relationship with someone. The old “carrot on a stick” is a common technique narcissists use to keep people in line. They make promises, and even provide things, in exchange for power and control. And then, once they get what they want, they take away what they gave. Or, they take away what they gave as soon as their victims assert themselves or don’t do what they’re ordered to do. Narcissists are extremely selfish people who want to appear respectable, so they will put up a facade that makes them look decent. Underneath it, though, there are a lot of people who suffer. Pity the children and spouse of a narcissist; they can never please them and are constantly trying to survive the ups and downs of life with a narcissist. All of the scrambling that comes with that life, ultimately leads to people who are just trying to keep their heads above water, let alone focusing on their wants and needs for their own lives.

Lately, I’ve been writing a lot about Ex. In fact, it seems like I write more about her now than I ever did. Why would I do such a thing, especially since she hasn’t been Bill’s wife since 2000? It’s because I’ve been coming to some conclusions. Maybe it’s hard for people to understand this, but it’s been quite strange to be a witness to my husband’s relationship with his two children, especially since, given the chance, Bill would have been a loving, involved, and devoted father to them. But, when he and his ex wife divorced, he was denied that chance, and he didn’t have the financial resources to fight in court with her. So, for that reason, he and younger daughter– the one who will speak to him– are having to get reacquainted from afar. Thankfully, technology makes that possible.

Bill and his daughter were physically kept apart for about fifteen years. They had no contact at all until late 2016 or so. They have only seen each other in person on one occasion, since Christmas 2004. Their last meeting was in March 2020, just before COVID shut down the world. They regularly Skype and send videos to each other. I’ve been watching them get to know each other again, hearing the stories of what life was like for younger daughter, growing up with no contact with her natural father. I often get really pissed off when I see the damage that was done, especially since #3 was obviously not a good replacement for Bill in his daughters’ lives. We also know that #3 treats his kids– probably his daughter, specifically– differently than he does Bill’s girls. He calls them his “daughters”, but obviously he doesn’t see them in the same way that he does his natural daughter with Ex (who has five children by three husbands).

Yesterday, Bill watched a video his younger daughter sent him. In the video, which she paused at least three times, due to having to tend to her very young children, she talked about a number of things and asked questions. She wanted to know what Bill’s favorite country was. Younger daughter has never had the chance to go abroad, at least not beyond Canada and Mexico. She’s always been a curious person. I remember when I met her in 2003, she told me she wanted to be a LDS missionary in Russia. Bill sent her language CDs for Christmas to encourage her. Naturally, Ex took them away, along with any pictures or other reminders of Bill.

Younger daughter is about to celebrate her sixth wedding anniversary. She has three children, all of whom are under five years old. She’s also a devout Mormon, having been brought to the church by Ex, who tried to use it as a means of controlling Bill and ostracizing him from his kids. The LDS church keeps its members very busy. I listened to younger daughter speak as she was making dinner for her family. I heard her kids squealing in the background. Then, the baby, who was born in late May, began to cry. As she tended to the baby, younger daughter talked about a musical performance she had been asked to do for church.

As a musical person myself, I realized it would be hard to prepare a song for church with everything younger daughter has going on. She said it would be a solo, and she doesn’t like to sing solos, because she gets really nervous and her voice cracks. Younger daughter never had the benefit of lessons. At one point, Ex had let her take piano lessons, but then she stopped them. Younger daughter learned more about piano from YouTube videos, but isn’t as trained as she would have been if she’d been allowed to keep taking lessons from an in person teacher. But that’s how Ex rolls. She gives… and then she takes away.

She said, “I don’t think I can sing as well as Jenny (that’s me) does.”

I told Bill, “There are some techniques she could learn that would help her with nervousness and the cracking voice. I could have taught her a few tricks myself.” But, like Bill, I was denied access to Bill’s daughters. Their mother saw me as too much of a threat. I guess, some might see that as a natural thing, given that I write so many negative posts about her. But, I wasn’t doing that when the kids were minors. I had respect for Ex’s role as their mom, even if I found her behavior reprehensible. Back then, I also didn’t know the extent of the abuse she perpetrated against Bill and their children.

Now that younger daughter is a grown, married woman, with children of her own, I can’t help but reflect. She is very bright, courageous, assertive, and naturally resourceful. I wonder what her life would have been like if she hadn’t been raised the way she was. I feel pretty certain that she would have earned a college degree or two. She would have been able to travel… to develop skills and talents beyond homemaking. She could have had someone teach her how to sing properly, and become proficient at playing piano, or any other area of study she wanted to explore. I also strongly doubt she would be LDS.

It’s not a secret to my regular readers that I don’t like the LDS church. However, since Bill and I have become reacquainted with younger daughter, my “anti-Mormon” views have softened somewhat, mainly because I’ve seen that younger daughter was able to escape her mother because of people in the church. I have always known there were good people in the church. It’s the institution itself, and many of its practices, that I don’t like. In the church, there is a popular saying “The gospel (or church) is perfect; the people aren’t.” My view is that the LDS church is, by no means, “perfect”.

There are a lot of problems with the LDS doctrine, as far as I’m concerned. I think it holds some people back from what they could achieve in life, mainly because they’re expected to give so much time and money to the organization. And yet, just like the Army gave Bill an escape, the church gave younger daughter an escape. So I can’t blame her for loving the church… but I also think there will come a day, maybe years from now, when her children are older and less needy, that she will realize all of the things she could have done as a young woman. Which isn’t to say that LDS women can’t or don’t do those things. But they usually have the benefit of supportive, loving, and non abusive parents to help them. Younger daughter, regrettably, didn’t have that. So now, she’s 28 years old, with no college degree, three very young children, and expectations to serve the church.

Not all is lost, though. Because she was able to escape Ex’s mini cult, she’s been able to reacquaint with Bill and his mom. Access to both were denied to Bill’s daughters when they were growing up. Older daughter, at age 31, still lives with Ex. According to Ex, they are a “single paycheck” household, which is earned by #3, who works in a field for which he is probably poorly suited. Older daughter, who is a talented artist with a college degree, is basically raising her “severely autistic” brother, who is going to be 16 this year. Ex, on the other hand, recently tweeted this:

Ex is praising this lady on Twitter, who apparently has a remarkably insightful seven year old child… (and my guess is that he didn’t actually say what she claims he said, but who knows?). She brags about her five children and “grandbabies”, and calls herself “nearly an expert”. But I happen to know that Bill did most of the hard work when his daughters were babies and toddlers. As they got older and he was devalued and discarded, their care was taken over by ex stepson. And then, when Ex had two more babies, Bill’s daughters basically took care of them, and did all of the housework. It still goes on today, as Ex’s youngest gets closer to physical adulthood. I recently looked at open posts on older daughter’s Facebook, where, in 2021. she had publicly posted a loving comment about her brother, to whom she’s obviously the “mommy”. She clearly inherited Bill’s kind heart, even though she can’t seem to extend it to Bill.

Steve, Joe, and Blue have brought so much light, love, and laughter to my family for many years.

Blue’s Clues brought me closer to my little brother.

We would watch Blue’s Clues every day, while drawing the many clues that filled the Handy Dandy Notebook. At first he would watch me draw each clue (over and over) until he memorized every one. If I messed up, he would take the paper away, show me the correct way to draw it, and then hand me a clean sheet of paper to draw the clue(s) again.

He’s 14 years old and has severe autism. He knows every clue (in order) by heart.

This afternoon, he drew three clues on our driveway; naming each one from the episode with the Treasure Hunt and Steve’s Grandma.

Blues Clues will forever hold a very special place in our hearts.

#bluesclues 25th Anniversary

I look at older daughter’s photos, and I can see that she looks a lot like Bill’s mother, a woman she barely knows exists. When she was about eleven or twelve, I spoke to her on the phone, and thought she sounded just like Bill’s mom. Bill’s mom could have given her so much… but her mother had to take that away from her. She was too selfish to let her have access to her loving father, and his side of the family. She’s too selfish to let her live her own life.

Sometimes I get angry with older daughter… but then I realize that being totally estranged from Bill is probably the only way she can stand to be in the situation she’s in. Because if she knew what she was missing now, and what she has missed for years, it would probably really hurt a lot. It might be unbearable. So I suppose she sticks with what she knows, because ignorance is bliss.

Which brings me to #3. This morning, I thought about what he’s doing for money. He works as a certified nursing assistant. I know that wasn’t what he had planned for his life. But life with Ex doesn’t allow for pursuing one’s own passions. Somebody has to bring home the money, and I know from Bill’s stories, the breadwinner is expected to give all for the family… or really, for Ex. It’s up to Ex to spend the money, you see. And we’ve seen what she spends it on… crappy boxes from Scotland, autographed books, and trinkets. Then she pressures other people in the family to give her things in their wills.

When Bill was married to Ex, he was an active duty Army officer. But then she pressured him to leave active duty, because he wasn’t doing well as an officer. It’s hard to do well as an officer when you have kids, and your wife sabotages you by going out alone, leaving you with the kids, and not coming back home in time for you to get to work on time. It tends to have a bad effect on one’s job evaluations. Never mind all of the hurtful comments she made, tearing down his self-esteem. The 1990s was a time when poorly performing officers were encouraged to leave the service, so Bill got off active duty, joined the National Guard and they moved to… ARKANSAS.

Here was a man who has a degree in International Relations from American University. He’s intelligent, kind, well read, and eager to work. He joined the Army, not just for the financial assistance, but because he had a desire to serve, and be part of something bigger than he is. But in the mid 90s, he found himself in po dunk Arkansas, working swing or third shift in a toy factory, where he made about $23,000 per year, with which he was expected to support seven people (Ex, himself, three kids, and Ex’s sister and daughter, who had moved in). He later got a better job at the Whirlpool factory, supervising guys making refrigerator doors all day. That paid about $40,000, which was better money obviously, but the job was pretty soul sucking and boring for a man who had studied International Relations at a good school. He was simply doing what he could to bring in money. I remember seeing his ID from Whirlpool. He looked about 20 years older in his photo than he was at the time. I would say that at his age now, he still looks younger than he did in that photo, taken when he was in his early 30s.

Ex promptly bought a house in poor condition, which she said reminded her of one she’d seen in a snow globe. Severe financial problems ensued, and Ex then decided to become a Mormon, where people are expected to pay 10% of their income, while they allow other people to dictate what kind of underwear they put on every day.

When I met Bill, he had just gone back on active duty, having figured out that he couldn’t continue living that life. But he was fresh from bankruptcy and foreclosure. He supported himself on $600 per month. Meanwhile, Ex was working on victim #3, whom she moved into that house Bill was paying for. She replaced Bill with #3. And #3 now works in a field in which he’s probably not particularly passionate, doing it for the money, not the joy of taking care of people. It’s an important job, but probably one for which he is wholly unsuitable. I mean, he did, years ago, reportedly kick the eye out of Ex’s father’s little poodle. Should he really be tending to the sick? I dunno.

If you read my blog, you know that Bill and I have a good lifestyle now. It took awhile to get where we are, but working together, we have managed to accomplish things he never could have done with Ex. We have minimal debt. Bill now has a well paid, challenging job, in a safe, interesting, and pleasant country. He’s earned two master’s degrees, and I’ve paid off the debts for my two master’s degrees. We travel, stay in beautiful hotels, drive nice cars, and don’t worry about supporting ourselves in this manner. I have no doubt that if Bill had had those girls with me, we would still be living like this, and they would be living life on their own terms. Younger daughter would have had music lessons, or access to whatever else interested her as a child. Older daughter would be making art instead of taking care of her brother. Both of them would have seen Europe, and even lived here for awhile.

As sad as this is, it’s not as sad as it could be. At least younger daughter has broken free. But I think that as her kids get older, and she has more time to think about things, she might get angry. Because she got a very raw deal. It was unfair. I wish we had done more about it during their childhoods, when it was happening, even as I know that she and her sister aren’t my kids. There was very little that I could do, personally… but still, it’s like I have a sense of survivor’s guilt. I had access to their dad, who is clearly the better, more adjusted, more qualified parent. I’m not sorry we’re together, because I know he’s happier with me, than without me. I just find it heartbreaking that he’s such a good man, and he got tangled up with Ex. At least he escaped, though, and was able to reclaim his life. #3, I fear, is probably not going to be as lucky. And if older daughter doesn’t wake up, she’s going to miss out on a lot… even more than she already has.

Standard
family, memories, musings

“Little lady”– my big fat ass…

Yesterday, I went on SingSnap.com because I felt like singing a few pop songs. SingSnap has gone through a major overhaul since December 2020. Adobe Flash was retired, so the owner of the site had to completely revamp the system. It’s still a bit wonky, so I don’t find myself wanting to participate there as much as I used to. Every day, they put up a list of “featured songs”. If you sing those songs, it’s more likely someone will watch or listen to your videos and leave comments. Of course, the whole song catalog is also open to those who pay for a membership. It’s just less likely that anyone will comment.

The new site has changed the way users can find the featured songs. It used to be that a person could just choose certain genres and see the lists of songs that way. Now, they’ve made it so you have to wade through many pages, and they don’t always put all of the available versions of a song up. So one of the featured songs may not be the best version available.

I had some trouble finding songs to do yesterday, which is unusual for me. I have eclectic tastes. But I did finally find a few selections. I sang a few songs, briefly finding myself irked that one commenter kept calling me “little lady”. I’m sure he meant no harm, but I find it grating when someone who doesn’t know me calls me cutesy pet names. At the same time, I was genuinely thankful for the comments he left, which were definitely positive, even if I haven’t been a “little lady” in many years.

I mean, if the guy knew me personally, I don’t think he’d see me as a “little lady”. I’m definitely not “little” or “dainty” in any sense of the word, unless you’re talking about my height, hands, ears, or feet, which are kind of “little” (especially my ears). I’m also not that ladylike. I typically use language that would make a truck driver blush. I also fart, belch, and take massive beer dumps in the mornings. Sorry… it’s the truth. So if that guy actually knew me, he’d probably think I’m not much of a “little lady”. However, I was born with a singing voice that sounds kind of sweet and feminine. Maybe that’s why some people (mostly men) on SingSnap call me things like “kiddo” (cringe) or whatever.

I was about to click off the site yesterday when I noticed a Gershwin duet that was open. I don’t often complete duets because I can’t bear to listen to off key singing if I’m not in a bar or something. Finding a good partner on SingSnap often involves listening to some pretty bad singing that, for me, is not pleasant to listen to. I was cursed with “absolute pitch“, which makes me unusually sensitive when things are off key. Some people have a condition called “misophonia” and can’t stand to listen to people chewing loudly or smacking their gum. I don’t know that I have “misophonia”, but I do know that bad singing is like nails on a chalkboard for me, so I can’t stand to search for talent on SingSnap. Just writing “nails on a chalkboard” makes me cringe and grind my teeth as I think about how that sounds!

However, there are some legitimately good singers on SingSnap, and I happened to find one yesterday on the first try. When I find someone who can sing well, I like to pair up. So that’s what I did… and, in fact, this duet was rather unusual, since it featured me on camera. I HATE being on video. I don’t like the way I look on camera, and most days, I don’t have on any makeup or even wear a bra. That was the case yesterday. I decided to do a video, though, because the guy who presented the male half of the duet had done such a charming job, reacting to the lyrics. It seemed wrong to just do audio.

Maybe I could have put on a bra and fixed my face and hair… but I decided to just put myself out there, as/is… I really enjoyed singing with this guy, Eric, although I couldn’t bear to practice the song until it was just right. I’ve also never heard the recorded version that featured Frank Sinatra and Natalie Cole, so I was winging it. I played the duet for Bill, who got visibly moved… but even though I wasn’t watching the video and cringing at the way I look on camera, I was mentally critiquing myself. It strikes me this morning that maybe I shouldn’t be doing so much of that. Incidentally, I used a screen shot of our duet as today’s featured photo, but it makes me cringe to look at it. I’m all flushed because it was hot and I was a bit sweaty. I do have an air conditioner in my office, but I don’t like to run it when I record things. It’s pretty loud.

But hell, I’ll bet most of the people watching the video wouldn’t be offended by it. I was having fun. No, it’s not perfect or ready for a record company, but it was a few minutes of me doing something that is healing for me and brings me joy. I was letting it all hang out, not so focused on self-critique. I was able to share it with my friend, Andrew, who is also on SingSnap. A few others viewed it and if they had negative comments, they kindly kept them to themselves.

So why am I so hypercritical of myself? I think I was trained to be hypercritical by growing up in a family system that was focused a lot on image and what other people think. Many problems were “swept under the rug” in the name of avoiding conflict. Conflict would inevitably arise anyway, often after people had been drinking… and well, I remember a lot of fights, especially within my immediate family. I don’t like fights today, and go out of my way to avoid them, because it takes me a long time to recover from them. I was criticized a lot, though, and I think I internalized much of the criticism.

I am not a perfectionist about most things. I don’t keep an immaculate house, although contrary to what my ex landlady thinks, I’m not a filthy person, either. I don’t turn myself out dressed to the nines, nor do I put on a false persona of who I am. What you get is what you see, most of the time. But I can be a perfectionist about some things, like making music or writing blog posts. Even on a karaoke site, which is supposed to be fun, I can’t bear to put up recordings that aren’t close to being perfectly done. And I don’t do videos much, because I get too self-conscious about my looks and it throws me off. Putting up a duet video with me on camera was kind of a big deal. It was such a big deal that I shared the video on Facebook and tagged Andrew, who might be one of a few people I knew would appreciate it.

I grew up in a system where people were constantly telling me what was wrong about me and rarely offering positive feedback. My parents often disapproved of me for being loud, obnoxious, opinionated, and obstinate. My mom openly and very frankly told me that her friends didn’t want to hang out with her because I was such a terror. My dad would get angry with me for being outspoken about things. As I aged, we didn’t get along very well because he seemed to think I’m an asshole… and the feeling was mutual. At least I never slapped him or gave him enraged beatings when I got mad at him, though. I know he loved me, and I loved him, but he was very critical of me and didn’t seem to cherish me.

Other people would criticize me for all manner of reasons. I got bullied at school, and it wasn’t until we’d lived in Gloucester awhile before some of my peers started to accept me more. It was hurtful, and it made growing up difficult and painful, although I was fortunate enough to find some good people who were kind to me. Unfortunately, I also found “The Home of the Whopper“, a man who was kind and paid attention to me, but also showed me porn when I was about ten years old. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that a lot of people don’t like me. Even supposed loved ones don’t seem to like me that much. Or, at least that’s how it seems to me. There was a time when I would try to appease people who didn’t like me for who I am, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that those people would never understand or appreciate the effort. It’s not worth it in the long run to try to be someone I’m not, and frankly, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with who I authentically am.

The one person who cherishes me is my husband, Bill, which is a wonderful thing. But it would have been nice to have had that when I was growing up. Knowing how loving and kind Bill is makes me very protective of him and intolerant toward people who mistreat him. That’s why I was so angry at his daughters for so long. I understood on an intellectual level why they were so estranged. But the one contact he had from them, back in 2006, were awful letters that their mother forced them to write and practically dictated to them. In older daughter’s letter, she wrote that she wanted an “every day daddy”. She claimed that #3 was her “everyday daddy”, and he helped her when she was “stressed out”. We later discovered that her claim that #3 was a good dad to her was utterly false. It was just another one of Ex’s facades.

Really, what I wanted to tell older daughter was that I had an everyday daddy, and it was definitely not what it was cracked up to be. My father owned his own business and ran it out of our home. My mom also worked out of our house. Consequently, I had an unusual amount of time with both of my parents. They weren’t, and aren’t, bad people, but they always treated me like an imposition. My mom told me she hadn’t wanted me, and my dad was often disappointed in me. He didn’t protect me, either. My sisters treated me like I was incompetent or a brat, or they would chastise me for things like the way I laugh, my humor, or the way I looked. They didn’t appreciate me for who I am and told me so often. They made it clear that they wished I would change, even though I’m not a bad person. I’m just “different”, I guess… as we all are.

But what older daughter didn’t know is that she has a wonderful “everyday daddy”, and all she ever had to do was reach out to him, especially since she’s an adult now. Given a chance, Bill would have cherished his daughters and loved and protected them. He would have supported them in following their dreams and given them opportunities to grow. He is a wonderful dad and the best husband I could have ever asked for. He loves me for exactly who I am, and I’m pretty certain he loves his daughters in the same way. It’s too bad that only one of them recognizes that and is ready to accept what he can give them. But such is life.

Maybe I should just be grateful that my parents valued me enough to raise me to adulthood and support me enough that I was able to find the right partner in life. Because if they had just shitcanned me at 18, I’d probably be a completely different person. I probably never would have joined SingSnap, either, because I might not have ever learned to sing (I started in college) and I might not have had the time or the money to hang out online all the time. I might be waiting tables or struggling through community college… or maybe I would have had kids and be dealing with completely different problems.

I probably should just be happy to have Bill, instead of falling down this rabbit hole of self-absorption, ruminating about things I can’t change. I’m naturally kind of a free spirit, and people have told me that I shouldn’t be that way. But I can’t help it. So sometimes, I’ll record myself on camera with no bra or makeup and put it out to the masses. And people will think I’m loud, obnoxious, opinionated, or whatever else… Not everyone will like or appreciate what I do or who I am. But at least some people do… and I am fortunate enough to have one man who definitely does. I saw it in his eyes and heard it in his voice as he saw his “little lady” with a big fat ass singing braless and makeupless on SingSnap this morning. He definitely doesn’t expect me to be perfect… he loves me for being the mess I am and for sharing life with him.

Standard