The Itty Bitty, Big Things.

If a page in Open Office could be ripped out of my computer and tossed in the corner, you wouldn’t be able to see my floor right now. That’s how many times I’ve started this post.

And stopped.

And started again.

This is what happens when an agoraphobic story, desperately wants to be heard, but still isn’t convinced that it’s safe to walk out into the world. No matter how times you dress it up pretty and have it almost coaxed to the door, it may just as easily turn back around, and spend the evening on the couch, with a stale bag of Fritos instead.

So here’s the thing. Not only do I love stories. I need stories. Even if they never make it outside of my head, they’re my long walk on a stormy beach. They’re my wander through a sun-dappled forest. They’re my Prozac. My Zantac. My Xanax. They’re my prayers for peace and understanding: my arms lifted in gratitude for everything I don’t deserve, but I still, miraculously have; and they’re the unbreakable thread that binds my heart, to the entire rest of the world.

Tell them, and I will listen. Listen, and I will tell them. Put me in an uncomfortable position, and I’ll make stuff up that I probably shouldn’t say out loud. Like when I’m flying. I spend the entire time, with my face buried in a book, blasting 70’s classics or 80’s hair bands through my ear buds as loud as my neighbors can stand it. Then the book and the music, merge into one, and become a story of my own.  On my way to Chicago last Fall, entire scenes from Outlander fell victim.  Like the one where Claire leaves Jamie in the 17th century at Craig Na Dun. In my vodka spiked version, just as she slips back into 1945, the rocks morph into jumbo versions of those fake stone speakers that they’ve hidden all over Disneyland, like the ones that blast banjo music while you’re having your spine re-arranged on Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster. Then The Scorpions lyrics “Always Somewhere…….Miss you where I’ve been…..I’ll be back, to love you again….” roll into the Scottish countryside as Jamie runs back to fight the battle of Culloden. In red leather pants. And a long auburn perm. With an electric guitar raised in the air. And the battle cry “Je Suit Prest!”. In a voice that sounds exactly like Klaus, as he closed their last set to a sweaty, screaming, half naked crowd in 1989, at Monsters of Rock in Candlestick Park. (Which is an entirely different story on it’s own).

On another flight, a few weeks later, I birthed a Helen Redy /”I Am Woman”/50 Shades of Grey, mutant story-child, that came out looking like a Jim Carrey/Vera-De-Milo/Buffed, Beautiful and Bitch’in version of Anastasia. It talked like me, but with a baritone Vera lisp—and bent Christian’s pinkie back the minute he tried to spank her, and told him if he ever tried it again, she’d rip it off and pin him to the wall, like a bug in a science project, with his fancy leather riding crop. To which he immediately replied “I’m so very sorry. I respect your boundary. Can I buy you a Greek Island in apology?” Then Me/She/We tap our bucky front tooth in thought, and say “No thanks, but a new pair of Manolos would be nice.

“Size 9. Extra Wide. Bunions. You understand.”

Then he looks at us like that’s the hottest thing he’s ever heard, and donates a few million dollars to the Malala Foundation. The End.

In these situation, keeping myself completely distracted until the last bit of turbulence has finally rolled through, is the only goal. Along with making sure that those tiny Matchbox wheels, that have no business supporting the weight of an entire plane, don’t pop off the moment we land, or get ground to smoking nubs before catapulting us end over end.

Yes. Telling stories helps me cope. But these particular ones, and this type of coping have nothing to do with why I’m here.

Which means I’m stalling.

I use stories to do that too.

* * *

It’s been an entire week since I wrote that first part. I’ve caught myself on the verge of Googling “How do I write this damn story?” twice now. Not that it would do me any good. I never find my damn keys that way either. It’s the reason I can go months between posts. It’s not easy to sit in the bug-crawly discomfort of a stage-frighted story, let alone set it free, to run amok, outside the safety of my own person.

As a last resort, I asked Siri.

What am I afraid of ?!?” I half yelled into my phone, because sometimes it feels good to yell at something that can’t yell back.

Interesting question, Alyssa” she said in her superior, un-bothered way, and then sent me to an online game, where the pictures you choose, reveal your unconscious fears.

The first time around I got Fear of Death. Not a big revelation. I’m afraid of those creepy clown, pop up music boxes for the very same reason. Knowing the demented clown is coming out of the box, isn’t nearly as scary as not knowing when the demented clown is coming out of the box. So I took it again, and got  Fear of Failure.

WA-wa. Disappointed face.

I was hoping for something new.  They may as well have told me that I’m afraid of palm sized spiders. Or of accidentally swallowing that placenta-wad, that lurks in the bottom of my Kombucha.

But as I kept scrolling down, it was the obligatory pep talk at the end of the game, that suddenly caught my attention: Many of our greatest fears are unconscious beliefs, attached to untold stories, that may or may not be true. Tell the story. Challenge the meaning. Overcome the fear.

Which weirdly enough, leads me right back here, to the story that wants to be told. About a little girl. And a lost dog. Stuck way back in the recesses of a grown adult’s unconscious mind, creating shadows, and monsters, and limitations, and fears, for no other reason, than she didn’t know it was there.

And of course it’s afraid to come out.

It’s about a little girl.

And a lost dog.

And in the broad scope of childhood trauma, it ranks slightly above falling off the Merry-Go-Round or a badly stubbed toe. Yet here it is, calling daily, with the persistence of a telemarketer who won’t piss off, using every trick it knows to keep you on the phone. “But wait! That’s not all! For just $9.99, your Social Security Number, and the name of your first pet, we’ll include a free set of nose hair clippers!”

Which may be the entire point: Maybe it’s not the bigness, or the smallness of an event that defines the trauma. Maybe it’s defined by the person experiencing it, and their ability to know what they know, and feel what they feel, and to store what they know and feel in a place that they can find it, and name it, and make sense of it. Because when we’re not allowed to know it and feel it, our emotions, and beliefs, get warped and twisted and stuck where we can’t reach them; and before we even realize it, we’ve become a living, breathing legacy, to things that no longer exist.

*ITTY BITTY*

Bitty was my first child. The eat-you-up-adorable Yorkie runt, who was dropped into my world as I held her pregnant mom in my lap. One minute I was watching Donny and Marie, completely conflicted as to whether I was A Lil’ Bit Country, or A Lil’ Bit Rock n’ Roll, and the next minute, I was a new mom, to a blind, grunting ball of black fur and slime. I immediately named her Itty Bitty. Bitty for short. After she opened her eyes and weaned from her mom, she and I were inseparable. She slept with me, rode my horse with me, and shared Shwanz ice cream, straight from the tub, and a jumbo sized Sugar Daddy, as we watched Adam 12 and Emergency 911, under an orange and brown crochet afghan after school. She was Team Johnny too.

Then one day, I came home from school, and Bitty was gone. So were her brother and sister, that we’d named Fat Boy and Fat Girl, because they looked like black and tan sausages, with thick, grub-like tails, that wiggled non-stop. I knew they’d be going to new homes soon, because most of our puppies did, but not my Bitty. I was her Forever Person, and she was my Forever Dog.

No one knew what happened.

Maybe they ran out the door before anyone knew they were gone. 

Maybe they’re lost in the woods.

Maybe an owl or an Eagle carried them off.

Maybe they were picked up off the road.

Don’t get your hopes up looking. You’ll probably never see her again.

To a frantic little girl who had just lost her child, all of those possibilities brought unimaginable grief. Every day after school, I walked up and down our old country road, or combed the woods, calling her name. I slept with a picture of the two of us; her on my chest, me with a candy cane in my mouth, while she pulled it from the other end. I saw her in my dreams, hiding under a wet, mossy, rotted log, shivering in the rain.

And crying.

Always crying.

For me.

Her mom.

After not finding a trace of her, on the road, or in the woods, or from the people I showed her picture to at the drug store, or at the market, I knew I would never see her again. The ache in my chest kept me up at night, and when I did go to sleep, that deep feeling of  infinite loss, even followed me there. I didn’t speak of her again.

A few months back, I was driving my daughter home from soccer, when we saw a dog in the middle of the road with a massive head and paws and an awkward puppy body. He ran sideways, weaving in and out of traffic, tongue hanging out of his mouth, completely oblivious to the danger he was in. I did a U-Turn in the road and followed him down a side street.

We whistled.

We clapped.

We called down the road in those high pitched, Good-Dog voices, that only pet owners know how to use.

He ignored it all, eventually disappearing  into the maze of the neighborhood, and we didn’t see him again.

“If I ever lost Riley, I’d never get over it” said Annika, after we were on our way home again.

Riley is our rescue terrier. Although he’s older than us in dog years, he’s still the baby of the family. My husband is his person, but Annika is a close second. He sleeps on. Or by. But mostly on. Her bed every night. She says she knows what he’s feeling by the twitch of his feet, or the crumple of his ears, and we absolutely believe her.

“Have you ever lost a dog?” She wanted to know.

Thoughts of Bitty, were stashed so far down in my Bank of Things Remembered, they had almost disappeared, so my first response was to say “No”; followed by an ancient ache in my chest—and a painfully reluctant “Yes”.

Then I told her the story of Bitty,  with so much detail, color, and emotion, that I actually surprised myself.

She was quiet for awhile, biting her cheek, and glancing out the window, before finally turning to say, “You know you call me Bitty, right? Don’t you think that’s weird?”

Well, of course I knew I called her Bitty. It’s the name I gave her the moment she was laid on my chest, right after she was born. I just didn’t know it had anything to do with my little lost childhood dog. And yes, I suddenly thought it was weird.

If it was a matter of just being weird, I could have stopped right there. Weird and I go way back, and we get along just fine. But it was more than that. What I hadn’t realized, until that very moment, is that a 40 year old story of fear, loss, and grief, had been showing up for an encore performance, in a fully grown woman’s life.

From the time my kids were born, I’ve had a paralyzing fear of losing them. Like on a playground. Or in the store. Or in their own bedroom. I wish I was kidding about that last one, but at least the other two I know are normal. Most parents worry about losing their kids in public. Especially when they’re little. Then as they grow, and learn, and have the ability to protect themselves, and make safe-ish decisions, we as parents, begin to let those fears go.

Unless you were me.

If you were me, you had two teenagers, and still felt inexplicably panicked when they left for school, or walked to a friend’s house, or were in a public rest room for more than 5 minutes. Then in nothing flat, you could escalate from, “Wonder what’s taking so long…” to a vision of lying awake at night, knowing you’d never see them again, completely consumed with unimaginable grief, without ever stopping to consider, the far more likely possibilities in between.

Like hair gel.

Or lip gloss.

Or Snapchat.

Just that day, as I’d been watching Annika play soccer, I found myself searching for her repeatedly. If I didn’t see her familiar run, or the one brown ponytail, in a sea of brown ponytails, that I somehow knew was hers, my hands felt sweaty, and my guts felt jello-y, and my vision felt tunnel-y, and it only went away when I spotted her again. Those feelings had become so familiar, I’d never stopped to question their sanity. They just were.

Except now, I was doing more than question.

That ache in my chest, with it’s nose in the corner for all of these years, was suddenly free from time-out. It was just as painful as I remembered; and for the first time in my adult life, I saw how powerfully present, that decades old story had been.

The ultra-simplified, not-a-professional-so-do-your-own-research-or-get-your-own-therapist, lay-person version, of how this happens, has been explained to me like this: The Conscious part of my brain, that should have been saying logical things like “Of course she’s still on the field. She’s the height of a grown woman, not a teeny, tiny, purse puppy that can disappear without a trace, the minute your head is turned”, was completely oblivious to the story being told by the much deeper, Unconscious part of my brain. This part has no concept of time and place, or even a language of it’s own to say “Pssst! All is well. That terror you’re feeling right now, happened 40 years ago. Relax and Google crock pot meals like everyone else is doing“. Since it can’t tell the difference between what happened then, and what’s happening now,  familiar stimuli (like searching for your “lost” child), can cause us to think, feel and experience it, in the same jello-y guts, and tunnel-y vision way. As miserable as that is, the Unconscious brain doesn’t give two hoots about how it makes us feel, because it’s primary job is not to make us happy. It’s first job is ensuring our survival, so it stores events, feelings, emotions and beliefs in a way that it registers as “safe”—even if it keeps us attached to a painful story, in a clearly dysfunctional way.

This is how the memory of Bitty became trapped in a maze of sadness, loss and grief; a repressed sorrow, that was being told and re-told through an invasive, irrational fear. And blocking it’s path to awareness, was a single question, that created so much shame and despair, I’ve spent a lifetime shush-ing it down: “How do 3 expensive dogs, disappear in one day, without anyone knowing where they went?” Even as a little girl, I didn’t believe that no one knew. But by never admitting that I questioned the story, even to myself, I buried the painful possibility, that the god-like people who I trusted the most, may have sold my dog with the other two—which  kept the reconciliation of that loss, out of my reach as well.

Our pain hates to be shush-ed. It’s like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. “It won’t be ignored!”; and one way or another, it will have it’s say—in either a fully accessible, agreed upon story—Past with Present, Conscious with Unconscious, no boiling bunnies or jacked up hair. Or as an anxious, obnoxious mom, counting heads like Rain Man by the side of the field, or pacing outside of the men’s bathroom and calling “Are you done yet, sweetie?”, to her mortified teenage son.

Every now and then, when I’m at the doctor’s office, and they see that I’m a retired paramedic, they’ll say some version of “Wow. You did that job? I wouldn’t want to do that job. Have you ever needed therapy for all of the bad stuff you must have seen? Here, go pee in this cup”.

Then I respond with some version of “Nope. I’ve needed therapy for everything else, just not that. Do you want a fill job, or just a splash?”.

They look at me out of the corner of their eye, like I’m in some sort of denial or have a trailer full of bodies in my back yard; which sometimes makes me wonder, as I’m shifting in discomfort on that crunchy tissue landing strip, in my gaping floral gown, if I should come up with something else.

“Well, it’s been a struggle, but I do try my best”.

Then we could nod to each other knowingly, with a face that’s appropriately sad, and it would all make perfect sense. But the truth of it is, I don’t struggle. Not because I’m in denial, but because of the exact opposite, I think. Anything sad or mad or painful or gross from the years I spent as a medic, sit in a small, accessible box, on a fully conscious shelf, which means those thoughts, feelings, emotions and beliefs, don’t need to stomp their feet for attention, or get unruly, and misbehave, to be heard. Not the way Bitty did.

When my kids were little, I had a solid reputation as a Grizzly Mom, who most  didn’t cross more than once. I did what I knew was right, and didn’t apologize for standing my ground. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Unless it shows up where it’s not invited.

And it did.

More often than I wanted to admit.

I used to catch people rolling their eyes, or hear them whisper behind their hands—”It must be her job, poor thing……”. Like I had a terminal illness that I wasn’t aware of, and no one wanted to break the news. Being a medic would have been an easy excuse, if I was ever inclined to make one. I do admit, I was way more cautious than most other parents, for pretty obvious reasons. But when rational concern, turned into scary monsters that I couldn’t explain, I knew it wasn’t “my job—I simply had nothing else to call it at the time.

In all of the years I spent doing what many would call a traumatic job, I only carry a handful of calls with me, and even fewer names and faces. Not because they didn’t matter, but because they did; and one way or another, they were laid to rest instead of being left to wander, like homeless ghosts in the door wells of my mind. Do you know what I do carry with me though? The way the ambulance smells in different weather; like oil, metal and pavement when it’s hot, and like a big, un-bathed rodent when it’s wet. And the weight of our block radio, as it hung from my peeling leather belt. And the grid of the city, like a GPS tattoo, etched into my brain. And the cloudy scratched plastic, blurring the buttons on the Lifepack, like a kid’s candy fingerprints. And the clunky laptop, pulling on my shoulder, as I lift it to write a chart. And the smell of 7-11 Nachos after being stuck for twelve hours, under the drivers seat. And the taste of a lukewarm Venti coffee, with chunky swirls of Half and Half, floating on the top. And the way my waffle bottom boots squeak when they’re wet, across the shiny ER floor. And the early years of Fail-Safe, blaring in our ears, when we took a corner over 40 miles per hour. And the bare dangling wires, when my angry lead ripped it off the wall, and threw it out the window. And the laughter of my favorite partners. Or which ones snore. Or who would only eat a one kind of Pad Thai, from one single booth down at Saturday Market. And who would eat anything, from a withered carrot found rolling on the cab floor, to a day old McRib, left in their work bag overnight. And the pure fun of driving code 3, especially when it’s dark. But there are no pop up surprises. No painful stories left unresolved. Nothing forgotten that should be remembered. Nothing remembered that I should forget. Which is my best explanation, for why a big traumatic job, left a much smaller imprint, than my black and tan Yorkie runt.

The events in our lives are funny that way. Whether we know it or not, they’re constantly weaving a fabric. When we can feel what we feel, and know what we know, the threads become part of a strong, resilient whole. But the ones we snip back, (or that are snipped back for us through shame, guilt or fear), are fragile, and weak and eventually leave a hole. The hole that’s left, becomes the untold stories that live on and on, through our destructive thoughts and behaviors, our liming fears and beliefs, our unexplained anger and control issues, our self-sabotage, addictions and relationship failures—and so much more. Like a highly anxious mom, who doesn’t know she believes, that her two beloved children are destined to disappear, like her beloved childhood dog.

I’ve always said that I became a medic because it’s fun. You learn real quick (like after you’re slapped down on your first ambulance ride-along), to never say “because I like to help people”.  But it’s ok to say it’s fun. And for more reasons that I have room to explain, it really was fun. But on a deeper, and yes, unconscious level, I know it gave a voice to some very different stories, that I also couldn’t tell out loud. Like chaos. And abandonment. And betrayal. And unimaginable loss. And being taught to believe that I was a disgusting, worthless, un-savable worm who was hated by God. And a crippling fear of death (For obvious reasons. Like burning in hell forever.Duh.)

If fear, anxiety, worthlessness, and visions of being flung into the pit of hell by a laughing, vengeful, god-monster was the disease, being a medic was the cure. When I entered that realm, I felt indescribable peace and calm, because when other people were depending on me, fear and anxiety lost their power. There were tools. There was a plan. There was a way to control the chaos that usually seemed to work; and when it didn’t, I knew, that the dying aspect of living, was completely out of my hands. I hadn’t caused it, or created it. I was only there to help.  And someday do something so heroic, that god would forget that he hated me. And hopefully pay my penance for being a disgusting, worthless, un-savable worm.

I ended my career, never feeling like I succeeded in that, but the one thing I did understand: in allowing me to tell my story in a way that my soul understood, it’s my patients who really saved me, instead of the other way around.

You know that saying, “When the past comes calling, don’t answer it. It has nothing new to say”? Well I think it’s exactly the opposite. When the past comes calling ANSWER THE DAMN THING. And then invite it over for coffee; and ask it to tell you everything it knows; and then tell it everything you know; and then keep inviting it over until the conversation becomes so incredibly boring, it doesn’t want to talk to you anymore.

Because here’s the thing. Dealing with our past isn’t like removing a tumor, where the bad part is cut away, and the good part gets to stay. The good and the bad are fully intertwined, and in shunning our past to escape the bad, we lose the rest of our lives as well. In knowing what we know (even if that means shaking your fist at no one, and screaming into the air “You sold my eff-ing dog?!?), and feeling what we feel (even if it means ancient tears, streaming down your face, that you haven’t tasted in 40 years); we not only preserve the fabric, but we create new fibers of meaning and belief, that weave in and out, through time and repetition, to eventually mend that hole.

“Letting go” doesn’t mean spinning around an ice castle, singing a Disney song. If we really want to let something go, we have to pick it up, first. That means facing our stories, grabbing them tight, holding them close, listening to what they’re saying, over and over, like a child who’s afraid of the dark, until we fully understand; and then, and only then, can we truly set them down. Feelings from our past, don’t go away, just because they don’t make sense in our present lives. Neither do the holes from the stories we’ve left untold. We may call it choice, or destiny, or being cursed, or “this is how I’ve always been” or “I don’t know why I feel like this but…”, or “how do these same things keep happening?”, when the truth of the matter is, it may just be an Itty Bitty story, that’s so desperate to be heard, it does whatever it thinks it has to do, to simply be invited in.

Teeth Cleaning. Truth Telling. And a Bowl of Cold Gray Mush.




“I’m so sorry” yawned the super sweet hygienist who was digging on my teeth. “I just didn’t get much sleep last night. I have a dear, DEAR friend who insists on keeping me up. I mean, I LOVE HER TO DEATH, but she knocks on my door at almost midnight, several times a week, even though she knows I get up early for work.”

“Hath you athked her to thtop?” I drooled, trying not to disturb that pointy hook thing that I was starting to worry would end up buried in my brain.

“Yes” she punctuated with another quick scrape, “But for some reason, I end up feeling guilty. She really has done SO MANY NICE THINGS FOR ME, and I’m sure….no, I’m POSITIVE, because she’s THE GREATEST PERSON EVER, that when I tell her I need to sleep, and she reminds me of all that she’s given to me and done for me, she’s NOT TRYING TO MAKE ME FEEL BAD. Sometimes she says that I must not want to be her friend—AND OF COURSE I DO—but she’s starting to affect my work, and my health, and no matter how nicely I ask her to stop, I feel like I’m being mean.

At this point I’d had it. Not with the pirate claw, chipping at my teeth, BUT WITH THE STORY—not the one she’s saying out loud, but THE ONE SHE WASN’T, about the clearly abusive person—IN THE BOLD TYPED WORDS, that were the opposite of the truth.

How did I know? Because I had been there myself, in the Upside Down, Good-Means-Bad/Bad-Means-Good, Find-Muckery, of the Greatest-Ever, Done-So-Many-Nice-Things-For-Me, Malignant Narcissist “friend”. And once you’ve experienced it yourself, it’s pretty hard to miss in someone else.

So let’s pause right there to allow two key words to soak in: 

MALIGNANT 1.) Tending to be severe and become progressively worse 2.) can invade and destroy nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

NARCISSIST: One who has an inflated sense of their own importance, an insatiable need for power, control and admiration, and a lack of empathy for others.

Just what we all want burrowing into our soft spots, right? And if you think that sounds fun, when the stage is set, and their players are cued for action, the story of your life becomes “Absolute Hell on Earth”.

You know how germs that have mutated past normal medications are called Superbugs? Well Malignant Narcissists are resistant like that too, except they’re resistance is to the way that normal people (the kind who don’t get off on hurting others) function in society. They’re more than a typical, self serving Narcissist, (who also hurts other people without remorse, to get their needs met). They’re a predatory Super-Narcissist, and because causing people pain  IS their need, asking them to stop any harmful behavior, is  met with mental, physical and social consequences that are so well masked with fakey, falsey goodness, people on the outside may never see it for the abuse it is.

The minute my mouth was empty, I sat up, wiped my face and asked her one simple question: “So what do you think would happen, if you quit coming to the door?”

There was a long sigh as she (thankfully) put her gum harpoon down, and said what may have been the first honest assessment of her twisted situation out loud.

“I know this will sound really weird (it didn’t), but I think she’s trying to push me to a breaking point (she is), so she can use it to make me look crazy (she will). She’s always setting up these impossible situations, where no matter how awful she acts, you look like the bad guy, and she either looks like the hero who saved the day, or the victim who everyone feels sorry for. If  I stop answering the door, she’ll make me look like the jerk. She’s literally in charge of everything: our friends, our families, Ladies Bible Class, Baby Showers, Women’s Ministries. She even takes our pastor on vacation. People practically worship her, but none of them know what it’s like when she doesn’t get what she wants. An entirely different person shows up….and that one is downright mean.”

That’s what I thought. Because no fully mature, middle aged, professional woman, tells a total stranger this kind of bizarre story (especially when they should be gagging them with that strawberry sand polish, and buffing their teeth to a glossy finish) unless the absolute misery of living your life under ownership, has finally outweighed the risks of telling the truth. And when it gets to that point. Even a drooling patient will do.

So who are these Super-Malicious, Super-Malevolent, Super-Bug people?

Malignant Narcissists (or what I call Super-Narcs) are pathological predators who get a sick satisfaction from other people’s fear, pain, humiliation and misery. You know how Cookie Monster says “Nom! Nom! Nom!” with his big googly eyes, bugged out in joy as he uncontrollably shoves cookies in his face? That’s what a Super-Narc does, except their cookie of choice is someone else’s suffering. 

It’s not so different from the fix a serial killer gets when they have complete control over their victim. The empty hole in their soul is temporarily filled with a godlike feeling of the power over another human being. Super-Narcs have just figured out another way to get it—minus all of that unpleasant jail time.

And look. If you think these people show up with horns and a pitchfork, you’re wrong. They show up with a rent check when you’re running short; or a job offer; or jumper cables when you’re stuck; or a great deal on a house; or with a super elite, VIP party invitation; or with a sunny day out on their boat; or as a nurse during your health crisis; or with a paid vacation; or with a door that’s open and a shoulder to cry on; or with a freezer full of casseroles when your kid is sick or your spouse breaks their leg. But unlike normal people, who do nice things because they’re actually nice, Narcs only do “nice” things to benefit themselves. They’re like a computer, always on, scanning the crowd, searching for an in, on the hunt for a useful tool, mimicking empathy and compassion in a shockingly real way, to look like your dream come true. Until the mask eventually falls off, and the Super-Narc Nightmare begins.

Showing up under the pretense of goodness and kindness, benefits them in several powerful ways:

1.) It lowers our defenses, while giving them a front row seat to our lives. This is where they do their best Market Research. That’s right. Just like advertisers do. They collect an arsenal of information to manipulate emotions and behaviors, or magnify our biggest wants, needs, fears, failures, and vulnerabilities, so they can market themselves as the solution to our problem. Either that, or they feed us a constant supply of subtle cues and warnings, of what will happen if they’re not given what they want. 

2.) It gives them the power to turn relationships into weapons. Using the information they’re given, they create an intricate web of relationships where everything we hold sacred, hinges on the approval of a group that is owned and controlled by them. Once that happens, they have the power to give and take, or punish and reward. If we’re on their side, (i.e making excuses for their bad behavior, and giving them the power, control, money, adoration, or status they demand), we get rewarded. Sometimes it’s with a share of their spoils, but most of the time, it’s by not being targeted–which for most people, is really all they want. But the minute they sense that one of their Ego Suppliers isn’t loyal, they make themselves the victim, accuse the defector of being the abuser, and turn the rest of the group against them—often damaging kids, marriages, neighbors, jobs, school relationships, church status, social standing, or anything else we hold dear. Simply put, they use emotional blackmail to keep us in a constant state of fear, confusion and denial, which is why otherwise good people, will stand by and say nothing, while abusers do what they do best: lie, destroy and manipulate, to get their needs met.

3.) It creates a high level of anxiety when they switch back and forth from generous and helpful, to cruel and abusive. Which is really the whole point. People who are anxious and confused don’t make good decisions. They also question their own instincts, which keeps them from trusting their inner voice, that in all likelihood, has been pissed off for awhile. Mine used to rant when I was vacuuming and scrubbing toilets. It took me awhile to realize that it was more than just the fumes from my Clorox Clean.

4.) It’s gives them entertainment. When you’re an empty, sadistic psycho, People Puppets are fun.

5.) It leaves you feeling beholding and indebted, and a lot less likely to tell the truth. Not that anyone would believe you if you did. Look how “kind”, “loving” and “giving” they’ve been! You should really should be ashamed of yourself.

Ummm. No. You shouldn’t.

And since I’m not ashamed either, lets talk about some pretty common behaviors, that you may be convinced are a figment of your toilet cleaning imagination too.

1.)  Never-ending Drama: Wherever a Narc goes, their three best friends, Misery, Discord and Chaos will always be there too. If Narcs have a Super Power, poisoning relationships is it. They plant covert seeds of mistrust, anger and hatred; pitting friend against friend, church member against church member, family against family, co-worker against co-worker, and without even realizing it, they all become actors in a shitty, low budget drama, that was written, and directed, by a truly malevolent person. Then guess who they all go running to, to be “the voice of reason” or “the calm in the storm”. That’s right. The Narc who created it in the first place. And with a hand to their chest, and a fake tear in their eye, they’ll say “It really hurts my heart, when you all can’t get along.”  

2.) Never-ending Gossip—under the guise or real concern: “Just between you and me, I hope their marriage lasts….she doesn’t really seem to love him.”; “Her husband gives me the creeps…we really should watch him around their daughter.”; “Let’s just pray that God makes them better parents…..those poor messed up kids”; “Being an alcoholic must be such a burden….but at least he’s finally fighting it” (as they relentlessly push the booze).

3.) Picking and Grinning: They choose certain kids and adults within the group, to be the “Bad Guys”. They make these people the butt of their “super funny jokes”, and encourage the rest of the herd to make fun of them, randomly ostracize them, or pick them apart when they’re emotional vulnerable, afraid or weak.

Not that I have any examples or anything.

I mean really. I’m just pulling these out of nowhere.

-So how about a grown woman who encourages a table full of  kids, to kick and hit a 3 year old and a 6 year old, and tell them that “no one likes them”—as she stands by and smirks when they’re forced to eat on the floor.

-Or maybe a grown man, who pulls a little boy’s pants down in public, and encourages an entire group of adults to shame and embarrass him. Then when his mom gets upset, he calls her a “freak” who “can’t take a joke”.

-Or what about the guy who leaves a bunch of little kids bloody and crying after tossing them at high speed on a boat; and then he and his wife blame the kids for getting hurt, and ridicule the parents who are angry. 

By the way, when it comes to them and their family, you’d better treat them like gold. Especially their kids. Unless, of course, they’re the disposable ones–like the “annoying” step kids, or the “thankless” foster kids, or the adopted kids who aren’t in a constant state of Savior Worship, or their “underachieving disappointment” kids who haven’t figured out that their only purpose for being born, is to be an extension of the Narc, and support their delusions of superiority.

4.) Innies and Outies: They purposefully invite one or more “Outsiders” to gatherings so there’s someone for them to low-key shame, ridicule, ignore, and ultimately feel like a superior “Insider” to. And here’s a little side note: if you ever have the feeling that you’ve been invited as an Outsider. You have. Instincts never lie. In fact, the Super-Narc has been picking you apart and priming her audience for days. My advice? Cancel at the last minute, so they don’t have time to invite an alternate. Of course, the lowest person on their group’s Psycho Pole will end up being the substitute. But that’s not your problem. They have choices too.

5.) Musical Friends: A revolving door of friends is created as “Unusable” people are run out of the group, to make way for better behaved Supply to come in. Because see, people are not people. They’re tools, that either give them what they want, or are thrown away without conscience or thought. People become “Unusable” in several different ways. A.) They don’t have enough toys, money or status to supply the Narc’s vacuous need for power, adoration and superiority, B.) They don’t give them enough personal information to allow themselves to be controlled or manipulated, C.) They don’t give them emotional reactions that can used against them in some way D.) They don’t follow the herd, or take commands, E.) They don’t buy the Narc’s bullshit. Seeing them for who they are, is a one way ticket out.

6.) Destruction of Sacred Relationships: Sacred relationships are especially attractive to a Malignant Narc, because nothing gives them more pleasure, or a greater feeling of godlike power, than destroying the relationship between a husband and wife or a parent and a child.

One of the ways they do this, is by forming an inappropriately close bond with a spouse, child or parent, or by making themselves indispensable in some way. They may encourage us to take that new job and offer to watch your kids for free. Then the next thing we know, we’re dependent on them financially–while they’ve become our kid’s second mom, or an influential third party in our suddenly crumbling marriage.

Another way they do this, is with a constant, low frequency negativity towards the people we love most.

Many years ago, one of my closest friends (Loose term. No real meaning) stood in my dining room and gestured towards my rambunctious 3 year old son.

“How do you even STAND him?” she asked, with fake empathy and a sneer disguised as a smile. Then she stared at me expectantly like an open mouthed Dementor hungrily searching for a soul, as if I should immediately nod in agreement and tear him apart myself. “Ya! The little jerk. And what was up with all of that morning sickness. I’ll never eat Jello salad again thanks to him….”

In different ways, and to varying degrees, she trashed all of the kids in our group.  But here again, is that extra element of evil that sets a Super-Narc apart: she not only wanted us to dislike each other’s children, she wanted us to dislike OUR OWN children. It’s all about the rush of power and ownership; and having the ability to control something so against nature, like separating families—especially a husband from a wife, or a parent from their child—floods them with euphoria like a vein full of Happy Juice, to a jonesing Malevolence Addict. AHHHHHHH……..

8.) Feeling Great Pleasure, from Bad Fortune: Super-Narcs are highly jealous, and downright sadistic, so witnessing or creating another person’s failure or misfortune, lights their pleasure centers up like a Disco Ball. Unless of course, they can take credit for our good fortune themselves (“I’m so glad I could get them that house. With their income, it never would have happened without my influence“). If that’s the case, they’ll pimp our accomplishments all day long.

And here’s a creepy little extra: You may have noticed that the people within those groups start to look strangely alike. They buy the same clothes, or furniture, or purses, or cars, or cameras, or dogs. That’s because anything that isn’t the Narc’s idea is targeted as “cheap”, “stupid” or “inferior”. But anything that is exactly the same the Narc’s, is “rewarded” (by not being targeted) since the brilliance of it all can be credited back to them.

9.) Nice Try Loser, But You Still Suck: Nothing you do will ever be quite good enough. Did you buy them an expensive present? Throw them a party? Take them on a trip? Do them a favor? (Like repeatedly answering your door at midnight, even though you wake up early to buff and floss teeth?) No matter what, they’ll always make you feel like you’ve let them down: (“Thanks for having the party. I was throwing up all night. But I’m sure it wasn’t your fault”; “Oh look. Another pair of earrings. Did you see the beautiful pair that Nicole bought for me? She really does know me so well?”.) Watching their friends jump through higher and higher hoops, or run each other over to compete for status, or perform for love and acceptance, is another source of Super-Narc power, control and superiority. Every now and then, they may let us think we’ve finally nailed it. But be warned: it won’t last. They give just enough “Reward” to keep us coming back for more, so they can watch us fail again.

10.) Bullying Children. If anything is a Hallmark of evil, this is it. And as I’ve said before, Malignant Narcs are known for it. Because remember the formula: Pain+Misery+Vulnerability = Nom! Nom! Nom! Nark-y Pleasure Snack. 

It’s not like they do it outright. They’re way smarter than that. There’s usually an eye roll here. A snide comment or comparison there. Along with a “funny” (aka humiliating) story, with a “laugh” (aka disgusted sigh), at the end. (“Macy stayed the night, and peed her pants. Again. Shouldn’t she be potty trained by now? We sure do love that kid though. Even with her behavior problems and all.”) And all the while, every child is being covertly painted with a lifelong label: Stupid. Annoying. Bad. Delayed. Ugly. Fat—with escalating cues, that urge the entire group from kids to adults, to shame and humiliate them on command.

Here’s what’s even nastier: A Super-Narc goes to great lengths to make themselves appear to love and protect children. They’ll often foster, or adopt, or babysit, or teach, or coach, or volunteer, because it gives them unlimited access to their favorite ego snack. It’s important to remember that any “good” they show up front, is the opposite of who they are. A dead accurate compass, that points to the darkness inside their heart. 

Ok. Gross. But how does anyone normal fall for this?

It’s actually easier than you may think.

Believe it or not, Narcissists are a dime a dozen. They exist in varying degrees, in every group and organization, from families, to churches, to schools, to charities to governments. So what causes some people to be a gourmet meal, while other people look like a stale bag of chips? From what I’ve learned so far, although I still have a long way to go, a primary reason is this: depending on the role we were given as a child, and the type of environment we grew up in, many of our brains are wired, to be the perfect Supply for a Narc. Some of those environments include (but are definitely not limited to): A.) Being raised with sexual abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, or with a highly manipulative Narcissistic family member. B.) Being raised in a cult-like family, or religion, (or both) that controls their member’s minds, bodies, spirits and souls. These environments teach us to fear authority, to find our sole identity in the approval of others, and that basic boundaries (like saying no to abusers) are selfish, sinful and wrong.

From as far back as I can remember, that’s exactly how I’d been trained: to make wanna-be elitists, feel powerful and superior; to deny or normalize their bad behavior so that they never had to admit they were wrong; and to be an obedient, submissive enabler so that abusive people, could do heinous things, under the guise of benevolence, altruism and good. 

We don’t repeat this cycle in our friendships because it brought us so much joy the first time around. We do it because the brain sees the chaos, dysfunction and misery of serving a Narc as “normal”. We know how it works. We get the commands. We instinctually follow their cues. And because the primitive part of our brain equates anything “normal” to “safe and survivable”, we subconsciously seek them out.

And here’s what’s even scarier. They seek us out too.

Wow. Just….Yuck. I feel like I need a shower. And I’m starting to  think I may have one. Is there any way to get rid of it if I do?

Yes. But it will hurt. They’ll make sure of it. 

There are several ways to skin this mangy, feral cat. My approach is only one, but here’s what I did first: Once the dots started connecting, I read every book and online article I could find about Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Not just the Super-Narcs. All of them. Then, I took a brutally honest look at my groups and relationships—everything from schools and churches, to family and friends—and no matter how painful it was, I mentally circled all of the Narcs I could find. Kind of like a Where’s Waldo of my life, except instead of finding a gangly guy in a striped sweater and glasses, I detailed every source of chaos, misery, meanness, anxiety and dysfunction. And sadly, since up until that point, I had been a highly trained, lifelong provider of Narc Supply, there were a lot.

I mean, A LOT, a lot.

Next I played detective, and studied their actions, and my reactions, in all sorts of situations, and quickly learned exactly what was motivating them; because understanding what they want, is the best way to know how we’re feeding them.

Then I stopped. And started the long, painful, process of learning personal boundaries, and untangling them from my life.

One. Rotten. Root. At. A. Time.

I’ll save the specifics for another post, because there really was a different approach for each type of Narc, depending on the group and situation. But there is one, incredibly effective, universal tactic that I used for every single one. I call it going “Cold Gray Mush”. And for a lifelong feeder, it was also one of the hardest.

Since Narcs are Emotional Hoovers, it means changing your reactions from being a gourmet meal, to being as completely unappetizing as possible. And what’s less appealing than Cold Gray Mush? So here’s how it works. No matter what they say to try to get a reaction or response, and no matter how many speeches you’ve practiced in your head to finally let them have it. Give them nothing.

Not your anger.

Not your defensiveness.

Not your passive aggression.

Not your anxiety.

Not your fake friendliness.

And definitely not your honest thoughts or feelings.

Give the least amount of reaction, expression, or emotion you can, and get out of there. It may take some practice, but trust me on this. It’s worth every bit of effort, because once you know what a Super-Narc is, and how they’re fed, your real goal is to do more than stop attracting them. You actually want to repel them.

Going Cold Gray Mush, is the best Narc DEET I’ve ever had the pleasure to use.  

It’s not easy. Or painless. But just remember that nothing will ever be worse than having your life run by a Sociopath. And ya. A good family therapist who’s educated in NPD, is a good idea too. 

Just so there are no surprises, here’s a small sample of what you can expect, when you replace the Steak and Lobster of Reaction and Emotion, with a bowl of Cold Gray Mush:

-They’ll Smear your reputation: by calling you crazy. Or Mentally ill. Or saying you’re on drugs, or dishonest, or a sex offender. Pretty much anything to tarnish you and your character. Let them. Like my 17 year old son always says. “If people believe the first, worst thing about us, then we don’t want them in our lives anyway”. One of the best byproducts of a first hand education in dealing with Noxious People? Wicked smart kids.

-They’ll Project: by accusing you of everything they themselves have done. Shaming other people, for the traits that they despise in themselves is Narc 101. Put up your Wonder Woman bracelets and deflect it right back. Then walk away, Badass and Free like the absolute Super Hero you are.

-They’ll Threaten: usually covert—and again—often targeting your family. “I sure hope your kids have fun while they’re away at camp. You know I’m very close with the director—and their counselor is my best friend’s son .” Don’t underestimate anything directed at your kids. Again. They love to hurt children, and a super effective, covert way of doing that, is by starting rumors about them, labeling them as “creepy” or “weird”, setting them up in lose/lose situations, or by manipulating their reactions and emotions. Even if it means missing something fun, keep your kids away until they’re fully educated, and know how read these situations well enough to avoid the traps and protect themselves. 

-They’ll send out the attack dogs: Spinning a sob story about how “mean”, “thankless” and “disrespectful” you’ve been. Anyone who believes them will call you, or text you, or email you to tell you how disappointed they are in your shocking behavior. Someone may even show up to your house, to pray the insanity, the demons, and the F-word out of your unforgiving Satan possessed heart. No matter who they are, don’t acknowledge or respond to a single one of them. If they’re defending a Super-Narc, they’re under the same ownership you once were–and the very worst thing you can do, is allow them to pull you back in.

-They’ll blast anything private you’ve shared, out into the Universe: And I do mean anything, from where you hide your box of naughty toys should you die in a fiery plane crash, to your weird crush on the blue Wiggle. I say beat them to it. Write your own blog and be shameless about what you share: Top shelf of my closet. On the left. And whatever. He was hot.

-Narcissistic RAGE: Ok, I’m not trying to be a jerk, but this one can be kind of funny. Especially once you’re free and they realize their power is gone. In a Narc’s mind, everything in the world revolves around them, so they still have this bizarre expectation, that their Past Possessions will serve them on command, no matter how much time has gone by. 

Awhile back, I ran into a Ghost of Super-Narc Past who I hadn’t seen in years. If you live in the same area, it’s eventually going to happen. I raised my hand in a base level of polite acknowledgement, and went about my day. It never occurred to me to talk, or interact, because at this point in my life, when it comes to Emotional Vampires, “Closed For Service” is the only sign hanging on my door.

The next thing I knew, she walked up behind me, grabbed my arm and I found myself staring into that narrow eyed, glittery “smile” that was typically used as a warning. Except it wasn’t a warning at all. Not to me at least.

In a Narc’s wet dream, I would have done one of two things: A.) Yanked my arm back yelling outraged obscenities, so she could accuse me of being “psycho”, or “abusive”, or both, B.) Snapped into my old role to serve her with awkward conversation, exaggerated reactions and an endless stream of information. 

I did neither.

I simply stared.

With zero expression until she dropped my arm in confusion and walked away. But it didn’t end there. Right as I as leaving the store, the Vesuvius of Narcissistic Rage finally blew as she came at me again—lips a-flapping, eyes-a-glitter, saying anything she could think of to force some kind of reaction. 

Which was nothing. Cold Gray Mush.

At this point, her rage was so out of control, she actually rammed me with her cart (which I have to say was probably an accident—but nonetheless—Shit Completely Lost.) The entire thing ended with her snarling her way out of the store, as she glared at me over her shoulder, yelling bizarre things about my husband.

Then I bought a Latte. The End.

The moral of the Cold Mush story? When the actors refuse the role, The Play Write becomes The Played, and is left to their drama all alone.  

Sometimes I wonder whatever happened to the nice clean tooth lady, with the Super-Narc pounding at her door. Having a mouth full of steel and foam, I didn’t get to tell her everything I wanted to, although I did nod a lot, and say “Urh hur” as she picked and polished and told the same strange, twisted stories, that only someone who has been there would believe.

I know this post is long. It may be my longest one yet. So thanks to anyone who took the time to follow it all the way through. There’s so much more to tell than a single story can express. Sometimes I feel like I’ve spent most of my life on a chain, and I’m free for the first time ever, to finally tell the truth. I wish I could do it all now. Right this minute. Just scoop it up and fling it into the world like a turd being tossed from a litter box, in hopes that everything squishy, stinky and nasty, will transform into something else. Like hope. And healing. And validation. And encouragement. And the words “Me too!”, “You’re not alone!” and “I believe you!”.

The entire time I’ve been writing, a Henry Fielding quote has been running through my mind. “It is much easier to make good men wise, than to make bad men good”. At the end of the day, it isn’t our job to make Parasitic People “good”. Our job is to change ourselves. Because this kind of Darkness doesn’t just walk into our lives. Somewhere along the line, even if it’s on a unconscious level, we either accept it, encourage it, or invite it in. I know I did. With my arm held high waving a Christmas list of enabling behaviors, practically begging them to “Please pick me!”. As hard as that is to admit, I also know that the Road to Wisdom, can be long and winding, filled with Detours of Denial—and from here on out, the path I choose is straight and sure, paved with the Courage to Live in the Truth.

 

 

 

Finding Peace and Understanding, in the Gross, Spongy Center of Life.

 

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post that was kind of about the B word (Bigotry) and kind of about the R word (Racism), and then sort of about some other things that weren’t doing me a bit of good to keep carrying around.

So I threw them out.

Into cyberspace.

why? Why? WHY?

Almost 5 posts down The Road To Blog, and I continue to ask myself that same question, right before I close my eyes and press Publish anyway. And I still don’t know the answer to it, any more than I know why I buy a 3 Musketeers and peel the waxy chocolate coating off of that gross, spongy middle part, and throw it away. It’s just a compulsion that brings me peace. Reason enough, I guess. Continue reading Finding Peace and Understanding, in the Gross, Spongy Center of Life.

It’s More Than Just the Poopy Revenge.

 

 

 

 

The first time I saw The Help, I fell in love with Minny. She was a Truth Telling Nightmare, who fought back, regardless of the risks; and shined a light so bright, that the Doers of Darkness, had nowhere left to hide. And while tale after tale of bravery and heroism had me cheering the whole way through, nothing compared to Bad Ass Minny, taking a dump in a Narcissist’s pie. Continue reading It’s More Than Just the Poopy Revenge.

Dear WordPress. You’re the only one who truly understands me.

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Dear WordPress,

So here we are again.

You: still waiting patiently.

Me: cursing and crying and digging a hole in the wall in front of my desk with an anxious big toe, as I Write. Erase. Repeat. And then press my fingers into my eyeballs as far as I can without causing permanent blindness, and think “Who even does this?”

Like really. What kind of person feels the burning need to vomit words into space where anyone.

Or no one.

But mostly anyone.

Can read them?

For the last month. Every time I’ve tried to write this post, that’s the only thing that comes out. Continue reading Dear WordPress. You’re the only one who truly understands me.