It becomes apparent, when dealing with a narcissist–whether married, divorced, related…whatever–that there are certain themes that resonate. Certain pieces of scenery along the journey seem to come up again and again, as if walking down a path and experiencing deja vu with a dose of Alice in Wonderland. After all, narcissists are mad and sometimes, they make you feel like you’re going mad as well.
At this point, shouldn’t I be expert-level at dealing with PC? Shouldn’t the exchange of children every other weekend be fluid and smooth and non-anxiety-provoking? Shouldn’t anxiety be gone? I’ve conquered it enough times, for fuck’s sake? I’ve dealt with much worse, haven’t I? I’m no longer living in hell on a mountain with PC, and there are so many good things in my life.
Except, of course. Anxiety doesn’t care. Anxiety, like a steel hand trying to squeeze a steel block. There is no give on either end, just a melding that feels like metal in blender, pulsing and pulsing. Its been a rough week, my friends. PC and Trollup have done it again; the managed to get inside my head. Like two evil cartoon faces and my reactions run the gauntlet: fear, anger, lack of control.
I’ll save you the details, suffice to say the “drama” involved lice, lies, and Trollup stirring pots like nobody’s business. My not-so-secret boyfriend got pulled into the drama. My reactions were fueled by deep core emotions, the kinds that sit quietly inside your heart, shifting around ever so often: the ever-primal maternal pain of missing my children. Love. Loneliness. My reactions fluctuated from tears to madly stripping wallpaper to retail-therapy distraction. Attempts of self-care ranged from a lovely day adventure with my best friend to vodka on ice while teetering the precipice of Sunday evening.
It was a weekend of highs and lows. It was a weekend of emotions. It was a weekend of ab-work in the form of laughter and also, hands that would not stop shaking. It’s a battle of love and hatred that wells up inside of me. Anxiety is real, but much of this…whatever it is…is inside my head. I know this. It’s this resonating theme…I’ve written about this before. Anxiety. Drama. PC and Trollup. Feeling helpless. Needing control. It’s the deja vu of my journey on a path that I want so badly to be an idyllic country lane. Instead, it feels like an industrial road in a seedy part of town. Beyond voluminous ribbons of broken highway lies the sweet little dusty lane, lined with purple wildflowers and green fields and blue skies. I can see it, but I have no idea how to get there.
And in the middle of all this lies the other part of me, the part of me that wants this love story of mine to be real, this infatuation and comfort and ease to just be there. Every day. Instead of feeling miles away, with hurdles everywhere, in my line of vision but nowhere close. Instead of having dramatic exes and small-town gossip and planning fails and extenuating factors that come out of left field…I want it close. I want to skip over this fucking part of the journey and slide on into the countryside. I want this feeling of coming home to be constant…to not just feel like I’m visiting home and heading back out to the world to fight my way through it, alone. Jesus Christ, I’m tired.
And yes. I know that is not how life works. I know that timing is not always perfect. I know that my feelings are that of a petulant child. I know that turbulence is everywhere…not only in my life. And I was reminded of that today.
My friend Maddy came over today. She’s one of those infectious, bubbly people who if you’re lucky enough to connect with, will become a great joy in your life. She’s also one of those friends who, at my worst moments, picked me up and dusted me off repeatedly. Today, we switched roles for a bit.
I sat on my porch with her, sipping coffee and listening. I listened to her words describing her marriage and it was like listening to myself, circa late-2016, speak: the hollow, echoing tone of desolation and despair. Maddy has no way out, or at least that’s how she feels. This is clear as she blinks back tears and weakly defends the very man she condemns. She is controlled and underappreciated and gaslighted and most of all, she’s losing herself. She is completely, 100% aware of this but she is likely not going to do anything to alleviate her situation.
I could have told her to run. I wanted to tell her to pack up the kids and throat punch her husband and leave. I wanted to vehemently bash him and I wanted to offer her a safe place and I wanted to call her mom and tell her how bad things were. But what Maddy needed…what we all need, really, was hope. I wouldn’t be a true friend if I offered her hope that it would get better.
But I could offer her hope that if she does decide to leave, she will have people to help her. She will see that, how people really do rally. Maddy will forever be entrenched in my mind with cold, rainy nights sitting outside a ballet studio. The simple things she did for me in the blackest of my days were instrumental. While our girls danced, she kept me occupied. Kept me from crying so that I didn’t look like monster when I went back in to pick up my daughter. Talked so incessently that the simple act of trying to keep up with her was enough to distract me from the black hole I was forever circling.
I could offer her hope that…there’s better out there. There’s more out there. There are people who will look at you and see that you are amazing. Who will play up your best self and be proud of you and help you not because you need it, but because they want to. That good men do exist. That her kids deserve to not live in a world where their father screams obscenities at their mother behind silencing windows in a minivan after church.
So I told her how I felt. I told her how it felt to be cherished. I told her how it feels to be loved by someone not for what you look like, not for what you do, but for who you are. And as I told her this, I felt a flicker of…something. Recognition…coming home. This home, this feeling I crave, it isn’t on a country road and it isn’t in a perfect world where you can go out to dinner without people whispering and your past life will never mingle with your present.
This feeling, quite simply, is wherever I am…I just have to learn how to find it. And for all these things I so impatiently want: for PC and Trollup to drop off the face of the earth. For my divorce to be over. For these cravings of peace and love that I have to be sated at all times. All of these things are attainable. Everything is in my control. (Well, PC and Trollup aren’t going to fall off a cliff but I could metaphorically drop them out of my mind.)
Maddy also reminded me that I have something very precious that she does not: freedom. I think back to my life in my big, beautiful home in the woods, my bank account full of money and my lady-of-leisure lifestyle and I remember the horrifying, crushing feeling of being smothered that I deluded myself into thinking was contentment. Maddy repeated, again and again with utter despair, I’m losing myself. And she’s heart-breakingly right.
But I didn’t lose myself. Granted, I’m a hot mess. I’m a train wreck and a big vibration of anxiety. I lose my shit over lice and I let PC and Trollup get inside my head and start questioning things. I make poor decisions sometimes and say things I should not and other times, I don’t say enough.
So last night, at the end of my tumultuous weekend, I sat down outside with my shaky soul and I decided to say a little bit more. In my former life, I learned not to ask PC for anything, because I was never given what I needed. I found myself asking my not-so-secret boyfriend (we can call him The Plumber from here on out) a simple question. A complicated question. The answer to which I was hoping would ease my mind.
Is this a deal-breaker? I asked. “This” being everything: PC and Trollup and their endless drama. My anxieties. My insecurities. What I wanted to know was, is this the thing that will unravel us down the road? Is this baggage too heavy? A deal-breaker?
And The Plumber, in his simplistically eloquent way, answered absolutely not.
I asked then, for a bit more. For a bit more reassurance on the regular. For some of “us” to not be about the exes, the drama, the kids, or work. And The Plumber said a bunch of words, ending with we’re in this together. A simple answer to my complex questions and with that my anxiety abated for a moment in time and I went to sleep, dreamless and peaceful.
And maybe that was all the reassurance and reminders I needed. From Maddy and The Plumber, in two very different ways. The universe always seems to give us the answers. That even if it’s a long way to beautiful, idyllic country road, it’s there, it’s attainable, and it’s not going anywhere.