I’m Only Best at Being Me

I’d like to think that every person reading this is a kind, compassionate, decent human being who loves their fellow man and believes it best to encourage and support one another, despite our differences, rather than tear each other down. I need to believe that such good exists in the world, and I know that it does. I see it. I read about it. I hear other folks talk about it. But sometimes…when you’re deep in the thick of an exhausting situation with an exhausting person who says horribly inconsiderate and hurtful things just to make themselves feel better (or more important), you really begin to wonder…do good people actually exist? Or is it just another fiction we’ve been led to believe? Maybe meanness really is the norm and I’m just not programmed to deal with it very well.

God, I hope not!

It really has been an exhausting week, one in which I’ve been told, among other things, that:

  • I used to be somebody but now I just don’t care.
  • I am selfish and inconsiderate.
  • I can’t be trusted.
  • I don’t take care of myself so I can’t possibly be expected to care for someone else.

These tidbits were spread throughout the week, starting on Easter Sunday. Thanks, Easter Bunny!

Parental narcissism is the gift that keeps on giving, until one of two things happens – either the child cuts ties with the parent or the parent passes away. I feel truckloads of guilt when I think of either of these things, but I’d be remiss to say that when I’m sitting there being berated at every breath, these things don’t cross my mind.

My parent is also bipolar, and in either extreme (mania or depression), the narcissism increases. We are in mania right now, where having 3 sunshiny days in a row means that we’re way behind on outdoor chores. Never mind that it snowed in February, flooded in March, and is raining right now as I write this, there are things that should have already been done. Flowers should have been planted (despite the fact that we’re not out of our frost period). And the house should have been pressure washed. This was the straw that set the camel off this week. This chore has yet to be done (according to them) because I just don’t want to do it, and I never do anything unless I’m asked to.

Folks, my superpowers do not include the ability to read minds. The only way I’m going to know something is if you tell me. Then, I can launch my actual superpower – Google – to find someone to do it (or find out how to do it myself). I learned about this on Monday and by Wednesday, I had gotten 3 estimates and booked a guy for next week – when it’s not raining like a monsoon! And no, I will not be doing it myself. Why? Because, there comes a point when I have to learn to say no. I mentally, physically, emotionally…literally…cannot do everything.

In the midst of this discussion (which really wasn’t a discussion so much as a monologue), my parent said – I can’t take care of this house and you don’t want to, so maybe I should sell it.

Yes! Eureka! I thought we had struck gold! But alas, it was just a guilt tactic.

Now back to the part where we were talking about being kind, compassionate, decent human beings…

Children do not ask to be brought into this world. We are not in anyway beholden to our parents for giving us life. That was a choice they made, a responsibility they took on. We don’t owe them our lives because they gave them to us. In a loving parental relationship, it’s only natural that the child wants to help the parent as they age. Mom or Dad can’t do the things they used to, so we step in where we can. That might mean helping with house chores, or overseeing their finances, or doing the grocery shopping. It might also mean guiding them in making tough decisions when neither one of you can manage the help that is needed. BUT…in no way does it mean that you, as their child, have to give up your entire life to do every single thing they can think of that needs to be done. Narcissists believe their children are an extension of themselves. When they can no longer do what they want, they simple activate the extension to do it for them. And folks, trust me, this is not a good thing! Extensions are not supposed to say no, and when they do, all Hell breaks loose.

These things that were said about me – that I don’t care, that I’m inconsiderate – are wholly untrue. They are a reflection of how the person saying them feels about themselves. Projection, I believe it is called. And I find it all very sad. No one – not even an aging narcissist – should have to feel unworthy, unloved, or that they aren’t enough. The more I try to understand my life through this lens, the more I realize that this cycle likely started with my grandparents, who despite being loving to me, had ridiculously high expectations for their children. Those children, to this day, have ridiculously high expectations of themselves and as they get older, they find themselves running into the brick wall of inabilities that comes naturally with aging. And they lash out wildly at anything, trying desperately to cling to something that is no longer there. I am usually the collateral damage of this process.

I know who I am and I know that I strive to be the good that I want to see in the world…but the words still sting nonetheless. And like any person assaulted, I immediately try to defend myself.

  • There is no “used to be”. I am somebody. I am me.
  • I am kind and compassionate, even when it’s hard.
  • I try never to give anyone a reason not to trust me.
  • I try to live the healthiest life possible, putting a priority on my wellbeing, so that I can help others.

At the end of the day though, these affirmations are solely for me. Narcissists do no care how you feel. They do not care what you actually do or don’t do. They don’t care who you are. When the narcissist is your parent, it’s doubly hard to come to terms with these facts.

I am no superhero. I can’t read minds, write blogs, work a job, cook meals, mow the lawn, power wash the house, paint the picnic table, sew a set of curtains, fix the door, make appointments, cut hair, and babysit the neighbor’s cat…all in the same weekend. I can do a lot of these things when they are reasonably spaced out or I can make sure there’s someone who will do them; but in this case, saying no to one meant I said no to them all, and that’s where I’m at right now.

I’m sharing this not just as an outlet for my frustrations but also because I know that I’m not the only one struggling with this or a similar situation. If any bit of it helps someone else to feel less hopeless or more empowered, then it’s completely worth it. As for what I’m doing personally to help myself in this situation, I start therapy in May. After much searching, I believe I have found someone who can give me guidance and better coping strategies for my situation. At least I hope so. I am also continuing to focus on self-care, taking time each day to read, write, go for a walk, and have the quiet time that I need. And I have written myself a note:

I am only best at being me.

To remind me that I will never be able to please everyone all the time. I can only try my hardest to be the light, the joy, the kindness, and the good, that I want to see around me, and I can only do that when I am being true to myself.