One Way of Healthy

After dealing with Mari’s e-mails in the last post, I had some time to reflect and I faced doubts about how I had handled it.  Not to say that I am berating myself because it was the one of the first times I tried to assert myself.  Maybe I should have gotten her number and called her (instead of trying to clarify what happened via e-mail) went through my mind.

When Mari brought up subtly my choices in food and took it further by insulting things I like to do (writing, drawing, exercising, etc.) and the food dish I brought, I had wondered if I had provoked these attacks.  Did I build understanding through conflict with my approach or help create a potential battlefield?

I focused on the positive shift: the fact that I wasn’t going into the evening angry because I was going to eat something I didn’t want to eat.  In the past I have giving in to my boundaries in order to be ‘seen’ as less difficult and I have reacted passive aggressively toward others not realizing that I was angry with my decision.

Even with the subtle comments and insults, I didn’t react to them.  Instead, the evening was easy-going and I took her comments in stride and enjoyed the evening.  This was a small factor into why the evening went well, the other factor that helped was the other couple’s behaviors.  They behaved in ways that were healthy and addressed Mari and her husband’s inappropriate behaviors very well.  Besides the lesson I learned from asserting myself, I also learned from interacting with them.  Here is a list of behaviors I noticed, none are new, only it was refreshing to see them in action.

1. They Listen (I mean really listen)

This seems like a no brainer.  The OC (other couple) let others speak and waited their turn.

2. They Empathize

The OC have an adult daughter who is taking university entrance exams.  She failed the first round and is re-taking them shortly.  When telling their daughter’s story the mother clearly empathized with her daughter’s angst when it comes to taking standardized tests and seemed to be in tune with what her daughter felt yet, let her daughter navigate her path.  She wasn’t preaching or speaking about solutions for her daughter.  She was neither critical or unconcerned when telling her daughter’s story.  She was empathetic.

3.  They openly share their opinions and feelings and accept others’

Conversation flowed from topic to topic and on many subjects we differed in opinion.  The OC readily accepted others’ views and voiced their own.  This helped create an atmosphere of sharing.

4.  They speak for themselves

What is interesting is that the husband and wife of the OC spoke for themselves.  It was the manner in which they presented their feelings and opinions that spoke to their individulaity in the relationship.  Of course, they spoke of their common interests as well, yet at the same time I got even a better idea of who each of them were by how they told their own story.  I was able to better discern the differences in the their personalities by how they spoke.  It was clear that they were not enmeshed but still connected!

5.  They speak up for those that don’t have a voice or who haven’t found it yet

There were several times during the evening that Mari made subtle insults about my exercise routine, my enjoyment of writing, etc.  Such comments, I wondered, could have been provoked by my initial assertions and boundaries (as an attack).  I missed some insults however, the OC didn’t.  They addressed them as they came up, sometimes I didn’t realize I was being insulted until the OC said something to show their support.

At one point, Mari makes a forceful comment to her toddler daughter about her food and the OC also addressed Mari’s comment in a way that illustrated that they had the child’s back (welfare).

6.  They fight the ILLOGICAL, not the ASSERTION

Mari talks about how the women in a certain European country (she travels there for work) always are dressed nicely and well manicured and that she felt like a total slob when she works out of that office.  Everyone waits to let her finish her story.  She then adds that she can’t understand how they do it.  She states that she works ungodly hours and that these women leave at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.  The OC says “It looks like you found your answer to your question.”

At another point, Mari states that they can’t travel because of the toddler daughter (and tilts her head towards her).  The OC address the illogical reasoning in blaming the child.

7. They know their limits

The OC set limits.  Mari had said in the beginning of the evening, “Men are cooking, women are drinking” and the OC didn’t follow this suggestion.  They also set limits on when the conversation wasn’t inclusive or involved insulting what another person said or did.

Two weekends (in good company)

I had two very fun and interesting weekends in a row at the end of June.  I traveled by myself (pics are below) and the following weekend a friend of mine came to visit me!

After being depressed for a while I went on a weekend excursion to the Marseille and Aix-en-Provence by myself.  I don’t know what it was but it helped to be by myself and in a somewhat uncomfortable situation as my French is not very good and this is not my home country.  I had a lot of time to think but also not to think and enjoy sights…look at things I had never seen before.  I also figured out why I was depressed…at least the root cause of it.

My narcissistic mother had contacted me for the first time in a 5 years about 2 months ago…she sent one sentence: Your father is ill and btw your uncle died last year.  Nice, eh?  Her e-mails to me haven’t changed but I have.  I read the e-mail knowing that she could be lying because my father has been ill with heart disease and other ailments for the last 20 years.  He has never been really 100% and he is getting older.  But I found out what had happened and contacted my aunt to find out more info.  My father is not well…not urgent but the ailment will soon take its toll as he gets older.  And so I contacted him…I called my mother and father after 5 years of no contact.  When my mother picked up the phone she asked who I was 20 times before acknowledging it was me on the line…a tactic she has perfected since I moved out of the house (20 years ago).  I was able to talk to my dad for a few minutes and then it was immediately back to my mother.

I wasn’t upset after the interaction…I was actually apathetic.  She repeatedly tried to provoke me but I stuck to my purpose…how is my dad?  That was the reason I called…not to see how my mother is.

It seemed like, at first, I was fine with all this…but in the end I wasn’t.  I was depressed over my dad.  It is really hard to look at this situation and not call myself a spoiled little brat.  How can I not be in contact when my dad is not well?  How can I live overseas and enjoy this experience while he suffers?  I wondered if the blanket in which I shield myself is just a mask to cover up my own narcissism.  The blanket of recovery…I questioned all of this…all that I believe.

I had to get out.  Escape my own thoughts.  The weekend trip by myself gave me relief and some clarity.  I am officially breaking No Contact and visiting my dad next month.  It has been 5 years…not long but yet so.  A lot has changed since then…for me.  The other thing I am doing is bringing my bf with me.  In 13 years of our relationship he hasn’t met my parents.  I kept all that was good in my life away from them…a fear she would find a way to ruin it.  I also realized I can’t do this alone nor do I want to anymore.  I don’t know how it will go…but I do want to see my dad and it may be for the last time.

The next weekend a friend of mine that I met in language class came to visit me.  We got along really well and we are both Americans living in Europe.  Since our friendship is new we didn’t really talk about the ‘it’.  Our families.  It didn’t really come up until the second evening.  My friend talked a lot about her dad and never mentioned her mother…nor did I. It is not a weird thing when someone doesn’t talk about their family…at least to me ;).  But eventually she asked and I gave the standard response ‘I don’t have a good relationship with them’.  And this lead to the discovery that we both have NMs.  Her dad and NM are divorced and she has a good relationship with her dad now.

In the surprise and a mixed delight that we both have crazy mothers, she kept using a key phrase when she realizes she struggles in relationships…FYM…it rhymes with ‘TUCK U MOM’.  It was hilarious.  She said ‘every time I go through a bad relationship with a friend or bf…I say…FYM.’  So true.  So…FYM!


Pics below!

The Saturday market in Aix-en-Provence

The marketplace in Aix turned into a brightly colored terrace in the early evening.

Marseille: view from the church (Notre-Dame de la Garde) where sailors go to give thanks for making it home safely from sea.

The Vieux Port in Marseilles (with the Notre-Dame de la Garde up on the hill in the background)