Category Archives: Divorce

Sympathy for the Devil?

Question Mark ManI want to talk about narcissism. In and of itself, the intention behind this term is societally utilized to describe someone who is full of themselves. I had no idea that there was an actual narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) until a couple of years ago. A word that was once used as more of a joking way to point out a temporary lack of perspective has now come to light as being a real affliction which many people have been tormented by.

Emotional Vampires

But who is tormented in the actual Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders version of narcissism? Is the narcissist a victim of their disorder, or do they just play a victim on TV? Narcissists are well known for their deflection and their inability to look in the mirror. I’ve also heard them referred to as “emotional vampires,” which makes the not seeing themselves in the mirror thing even more apropos. The very nature of narcissistic personality disorder is to pathologically lie, believe their own lies, and blame those closest to them for all of their problems. They are always emotionally abusive, sometimes physically abusive, and devoid of contrition no matter how much they hurt someone they once called their “soul mate.” They are in love with the part of falling in love that makes them feel like they are on a pedestal. And when reality strikes after a few years, and the pedestal degrades and disintegrates to floor level (or lower) after being sucked to dust by the greedy termites of deceit, debauchery, skullduggery, and depravity, the narcissist is now looking at someone eye-to-eye who is finally onto their shenanigans. So they go ballistic.

Does this nightmare of a person, this sociopathic human being (who so many psychological professionals say will never, ever change or improve) deserve any compassion for being inherently compassionless? Are personality disorders brought on against someone’s control? You have to guess that they must be. Who would choose that? Yet, for the narcissist, the manifestation of their mental illness involves doing nasty things and never taking any responsibility for hurting those around them. How can those of us on the receiving end of the wraith of someone with NPD wrap our minds around this?

No Character in this Character

Why does it seem so much easier to feel for someone who is bipolar – a much more well- known personality disorder? Is it because they, by and large, feel remorse for their monster-like moments when they have deeply hurt friends, family, and significant others? Is it because treatment is possible and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel; hope? Meanwhile, if you google “relationship with a narcissist” most articles will advise you to run as far and fast as you can, if possible. There is no light.

A very prominent psychologist in Texas who I truly respect once told me that there’s no cure and no medication and really no treatment at all for NPD. As he shook his head with a sympathetic look on his face he said, “I’m afraid sometimes it just boils down to bad character.” But character isn’t a mental illness. Character, to me, represents a choice we make in how we behave and live our lives. Do narcissists have a choice?

Sympathy for the Devil?

These thoughts are a part of a daily quandary for me because I am a compassionate, tenacious person who has always had trouble writing people off. No matter how mean an ex has been, I always wanted to try and at least be friends. If someone clearly doesn’t like me (especially if I have no idea why) they take up far more thoughts in my mind than they probably should. I want resolve with everyone. I want to be good with each other, and good to each other.

   Important is the warning to avoid conversations with the demon. We may ask what is relevant but anything beyond that is dangerous. He is a liar. The demon is a liar. He will lie to confuse us. But he will also mix lies with the truth to attack us. The attack is psychological, Damien, and powerful. So don’t listen to him. Remember that – do not listen.

I find myself at a two-pronged fork in the road. There are clearly marked paths in front of me. I can live by the idea that narcissistic personality disorder is an illness like any other with symptoms out of the afflicted person’s control, and so they can’t be held accountable for the evil that they do. I can see little Linda Blair’s “Reagan” inside a possessed body and know that it wasn’t her fault that she was possessed and that there was hope for her.

Or I can accept the fact that I am no Father Karris, and I’m not willing to jump out the window and give my own life for this. This exorcism, if any such thing is possible, is someone else’s problem now.

The Bright Side of the Christmas Tree

Christmas StockingTwo years ago, I had hope – still a nuclear family of four.

One year ago, the bomb had exploded, the pieces were being picked up, and I had my first divorced/single mom Christmas.

But it was my year to have the boys on actual Christmas day. As per part of our divorce decree, we flip back and forth each year – both always having time with the kids over the holidays, but only one or the other having the actual eve and day.

As this year’s big day approached – my first Christmas without my children – at first I was like, “Meh! What’s in a date? Christmas is in the heart!” I’ve watched enough Christmas specials in my life to have that old chestnut (roasting over an open fire) drilled into my head. My family’s all willing to save the celebration for when Nathan and Joey get back. So no biggy.

Then it started to hit a bit – depression. I’m going to be a sad 40-year-old lonely cat lady watching Bravo and doing virtual puzzles on an IPad for Christmas. Of course I have friends and family who would take this stray dog in if I really needed to be around people. But of course, it’s not the same as being with your own kids. Christmas was my jam as a kid, and giving those same types of happy memories to my kids was always important to me. Not having the choice is just a bitter, bitter mistletoe berry to swallow.

But here we are, Christmas Eve, and I woke up and decided to look at the bright side of the Christmas tree today. I’m certainly not alone in this world, as other divorced parents deal with the same splitting of time, ruining the happy family Christmases they once dreamed of and forcing a new holiday normal on their offspring and themselves. Even if you didn’t choose divorce, there’s plenty of guilt in the equation. But, there are also positives if you put on your reading glasses and look hard enough.

Five Reasons to Celebrate not having your Kids on Christmas

  1. Sales – Mama’s going shopping the day after Christmas. 50% off. No complaints there!
  2. Avoiding Stress – The collective societal stress out there is palpable. I went to get a chestnut praline latte this morning at the Starbucks annex in the Vons up the street and I saw panic everywhere as people hustled for their last minute groceries. “Not I,” said the little divorced mom. I can eat a sandwich for dinner on a paper plate if I want and my feet won’t hurt from cooking all day, and my blood pressure won’t rise trying to get it all done in time for company. When everyone out there is stressed, it can sometimes make you feel more so, yourself. We often participate in certain traditions because we feel like we have to fall in line, culturally. This temporary reprieve on celebrating Christmas with your kids puts you into the mindset that you don’t have to do what everyone else doing. We will still cook and celebrate, but somehow it feels like it will be more relaxed because it doesn’t HAVE to happen on a certain day at a certain time.
  3. Extra Time – Divorced procrastinators unite! When you are given a few extra days to complete something overwhelming (like Christmas shopping and wrapping) it just feels like the big test was postponed and you have more time to study. Phew!
  4. Avoiding the Post-Christmas Let Down – As I mentioned, I loved, loved, loved the Christmas season when I was a kid, but Christmas night was always kind of a bummer. It was all over. There was no more anticipation. But tomorrow night, the best will still be yet to come of the Christmas season for me and other divorcees who didn’t get Christmas with their kids this year.
  5. New Year’s Eve – So I don’t get actual Christmas this year, but I do get New Year’s Eve, which is harder to fake. Unless you show your kids the ball dropping on YouTube from a previous year. Which I did once at 10pm to convince Nathan and Joey that they’d stayed up until midnight. (Didn’t go over very well!) But this year, I will get a little peck on the cheek from the two handsomest, sweetest little devils I’ve ever known when 2015 comes along. Now that’s something to look forward to!

Through the Eyes of a Divorcee

Unhappy Couple

Last week I had an “anniversary” of sorts, though not one to really celebrate, I suppose. My divorce has been finalized for a year. In that year, I have accomplished a great deal, including a lot of healing. A whole lot of healing. I’m now a member of a club I never intended to join, but like anyone who has been through difficult times, you see the world differently when you rise from the ashes. Whether that means I actually see more clearly or not is up for debate, but it at least seems so.

The new perspective which comes from being a middle-aged divorcee isn’t so bad now that the disappointment and pain have gotten to a point where they can be covered with a band-aid as opposed to requiring staples, stitches, and surgical tape.

It’s kind of fascinating, really. When I look around and see couples and families in different stages, I wonder why some of these men are willing to stick it out even though the challenges and monotony and perceived spousal neglect of early child-rearing is clearly bumming them out. Yet, others use the guaranteed chaos and the hard work involved with being a husband and a dad as an excuse to disconnect and/or cheat. (And I know there are wonderful, healthy couples to offset the miserable ones,  but allow me to profile the unhappy couples out there,for the sake of keeping my diatribe brief).

Women are so maternal, so I think often times men are somewhat mothered by their girlfriends in those early stages of twitterpation. This amazing combination of having basic needs taken care of and having attraction and all that comes along with it leads into surely blissful marriage. But, then when the baby carriage comes, well, we females have to triage. The newest born generally gets the most attention. I guess some men can’t make that transition from being the number one baby to being a partner without becoming infested with resentment.

I’m not absolving women, by the way, in my sweeping generalizations. I observe a lot of women who, once kids come along, forget they used to treat their man like a king. They suddenly bark orders at their husbands as if they were the hired help, and then feel totally irritated that their mate didn’t carry things out as they would have, or didn’t read their mind.  They withhold affection and barely mask disgust and resentment towards the man that once rocked their world. Why should men bother when they get no credit for anything and there is no physical/emotional rewards in their relationship anymore? And so, the vicious cycle goes on for so many young families, spiraling toward potential betrayal and the big D.

I might briefly note that this is not at all my story, in spite of my tone of expertise on these matters. My story is a whole other Lifetime movie….but I digress.

I was sitting at urgent care on my “anniversary” because I contracted  vile strep throat from my own little offspring. My immunity seems to be decidedly down as a result of burning the candle at every end these days. I’m nothing but a wick at this point. No wax to pad me. So germs seem to find me a delectable tightrope for their twisted circus act. My own doctor couldn’t see me so I bit the bullet and committed to three hours at the UC.

While I was signing in, a family came along – a mother and father with a boy and girl. I sat near them and couldn’t help but observe a bit. The husband was cute – probably early 30s, average height and physique, glasses. Kind of a hunky nerd. The wife was an adorable girl-next-door. Nineties Meg Ryan would play her in the movie version of her life. I could picture their wedding photos. They were probably so stinking adorable and happy on that day, with the ocean behind them, their friends and family wiping away tears as they made their vows, looking deeply into each other’s eyes,  and ready to embark upon their life together, full of promise.

They had no idea then that urgent care visits, screaming children, and crappy communication were their future.

Their son, Gavin, was 8, and clearly felt he could do a better job parenting his little sister, which they yelled at him for several times. Yet mom and dad wouldn’t take their faces out of their phones, so how could poor Gavin be blamed for stepping in?

Their daughter was probably about 3, and loud as anything. She was cute, but she was the definition of a handful, running around the waiting room like a tornado trying to invade the personal space of all of these people who didn’t feel good. The efforts of the parents involved a lot of yelling from their chairs without really looking up from their phones. “Serenity!” they would shout. “Get back over here!” I think I heard, “Serenity…no!” at least 100 times.

The pure amusement over the fact that this boisterous, hyper child should be named “Serenity” of all things was not lost on me. When she entered the building, there was nothing serene about it.

Finally, they got her settled down with some food so that they could enjoy their phone surfing and not have any connection with one another or their children, whatsoever. That’s when Meg Ryan mumbled, “organic cheese slices are on sale at the Whole Wheatery.” She didn’t look up, but was clearly annoyed that hunky nerd didn’t jump for joy over this news.

Sighing, she said (irritated and louder) “Hello?”

He repeated back in a monotone voice, gaze plastered to that smartphone screen, “Organic cheese slices on sale.”

There was no acknowledgement between them after that, but I just found myself struck by the sadness of it all. I don’t blame phones for this, by the way. This isn’t a lambasting of the downfall of society because of the advent of technology. Phones are just another of so many ways that people  hide from each other when they’re disconnected in a marriage.

For Gavin and Serenity’s sake, I hope haggard nerd dad takes Meg Ryan by the Whole Wheatery on the way home to buy cheese slices without her even mentioning them again, with a big smile on his face, thanking her for being budget conscious. And I hope Meg Ryan thanks him back with a big hug and kiss and calls him the best, most thoughtful hunky nerd husband in the world.

The needs of the parents in a family with young kids seem so minuscule when you’re watching from the outside. It’s astounding more people aren’t able (or willing) to meet them.