NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER

Lent 28 ~ This Last One

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Let the malice of the wicked come to an end,
            but sustain the just,
            O searcher of heart and soul, O just God.   Psalm 7: 10

          I was taken aback to see that 5 years ago, almost to the day, I had fervently said this exact prayer, to be saved from the unspeakable malice of three people in my place of work. Today, 5 years later, things have changed so much. One of the three has been removed permanently and no longer troubles me. One is miraculously beginning to find good roots within himself. But the last one…

          The last one still carries knives within her but she numbers not among of those who wound because they have been wounded, at least not in the classic sense of the word. This last one worships at the altar of herself. And anyone who does not fall to their knees before her is her enemy and one whom she must slay.

          This last one has tortured me endlessly over the past years. Yet, today, I write not as much for myself as for another. Because I have discovered that what this woman has done to me, she is beginning to do to another, knifing this new victim, who looks like a fool to the world, cowering, absorbing every strike and not fighting back. It brings back memories of what I went through, firing a wound within me for my helpless friend.

When will this end?

          Yesterday, our family took a long evening drive along country roads leading to the western skies. Massive dark clouds grew across the skies. Yet, behind them, the wide expanses were illuminated by the final light of the setting sun, rendering stunning shards and swathes of bright, rosy tangerines. In my heart, I fell to my knees before such breathtaking beauty and immense power. All the words I had sensed recently came before me once more,

Final hours

You’re almost there

          And yet, standing out stronger than anything was the beating my poor friend was enduring at the hands of a malice whose roots sank all the way into the darkness of narcissistic pride and cruelty .

          Take her away, Lord, I prayed of this last one.

          This last one is being nourished in malice by the joy she receives from seeing her victims crushed and also by the numbers who worship at her altar out of fear, weighted by the shadows they too carry within them.

Take her away, Lord 

          Because as long as we refuse to break and to glorify her, she will not rest and the cruelty will live on unabated.

Take her away, Lord 

          Because we have tried so hard to love her and to teach her to love – and we have failed, it seems. Take her where she can learn to love without setting a price, that her soul may be saved.

          We rounded the corner on the slightly bumpy road and my husband said, This is the last we’ll see of the sunset before we turn back east. Just at the turn, just as he said, even with the dark sky~towers in the foreground, the entire sky exploded into a shimmering vista of orange and gold.

          For a long minute, it stayed that way. Then, the turn came, and we turned back into darkness. Going back into the dark, quipped my husband gaily. After a glimpse of what lies beyond, I bantered back.

          But as we drove back, I silently wondered if my prayer would find its landing in God’s heart, for I am a sinner, often praying prayers out of the darkness of my own sins and less of the prayers I should actually offer up. And He, searcher of mind and heart, sees everything.

          Unexpectedly, today, once again comes, Let the malice of the wicked come to an end. After 5 years of pain and prayers. Is this God’s answer to my questions yesterday? This time, I see something I didn’t before, the end of Psalm 7,

If one does not repent,

God sharpens His sword,

strings and readies the bow,

Consider how one conceives iniquity;

is pregnant with mischief,

and gives birth to deception.

He digs a hole and bores it deep,

but he falls into the pit he has made.

His malice turns back upon his head;

his violence falls on his own skull.   ~  Psalm 7: 13; 15 – 17

          This last one. Lord, please, please help.

Learn To Live Again

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I walked back through the front door of Holly Oak and everything seemed different, almost hollow, quieter than it had ever been. I’d been immersed in the book for so long, I had to learn how to live again.   ~  Susan Branch, Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams

          I had come to near the end of Isle of Dreams, to the author emerging from a long journey of writing and working on getting her first book published. To the line, I had to learn how to live again. And my eyes were placed squarely on it.

          Therein lay the unvarnished reality of much of my problems – living so much of life trying to scrub myself clean of failure, I am finding it difficult to function on my terms alone.

          Like so many adult survivors of narcissistic abuse, much of my life has been built on the jagged rocks of condescension; I was raised to internalize that I was nothing and would have amounted to nothing had it not been for the intervention of others. Thus, I grew up and grew older having a keener awareness of my weaknesses and failings than of anything else. However much I learned otherwise about myself, the inner voice that always had my ear was the one that sniggered at my efforts. So, even as I walked further and further away from my old cage, one hand always remained on its door.

          Even with the grace of awareness and strength to break away and start anew, one shadow has followed me all the way – that of guilt. In my life, there has always been only 2 ways to beat guilt down.

Break away from the source.

Or appease it to the point of silence.

          Appeasing was the main option when guilt attacked at work. No matter how much I did, how hard I worked, I was never good enough. Not for the many suspicious people around me. Certainly not for the hidden past that was somehow always present.

          And so, I just worked harder.

          More than 2 decades passed in this fashion. As work pressure built up over the years, I had another load on me that no one saw –  a hidden demon that goaded me to the darkest depths of professional overreach.

          Then, the pandemic came. After the initial euphoria of working from home, with the heady happiness that comes from the freedom to feed my spirit with the wine of home and all its loveliness in the midst of official work, that gnarled hand returned and silkenly lured me back to the path I swore to leave. Quietly and compellingly telling me people needed me. That much more was needed to prove myself since it was WFH.

          And I let myself be led by it. What ensued were two major mistakes made as a result of exhaustion from working till the wee hours.

          Stumbling to bed, desperate for sleep, I suddenly realised that the need that drove me was mostly a mirage. There was genuine need – but I had not been called to every layer of its depth.

          Lesson learned – but I feared, for a time only – because what many NPD parents bequeath their children is the curse of lifelong guilt that nothing we do will ever be enough.

          I’m sorry, Lord, I whispered as I fell into exhausted sleep. Never again, Lord.

          I awakened scant hours later, with a strange energy coursing through me. I knew immediately that something had happened in the night as I slept.

Someone had heard me.

          Later in the morning, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque paid me a brief visit.

God has shown you His lights. You know what to do.

          But a later search for the exact quote came up empty. I could find no trace of it. And yet, on and on it echoed through the hours,

You know what to do

You know what to do

You know what to do

          All through that sun~scented Thursday, the robins and sunbirds sang, their lilting hymns piercingly clear. I leaned in and listened. Something had changed even here. I was hearing them differently now. Every time, it brought a smile to my heart.

          And all through that Thursday,

You know what to do.

           No, I don’t, I countered each time. I couldn’t understand. How could St. Margaret not know that I had no idea how to escape this shadow called guilt.

God has shown you His lights, she insisted.

          What lights? I wanted to ask, but that wouldn’t have been completely honest of me. I understood some things. Last year, through a dream, God had shown me I was headed for a major burnout. I took immediate steps to break the fall. But with WFH, I figured that I was having sufficient rest and since I had been cut a huge break from unnecessary work commitments, I could afford to work a little harder in other areas.

          But then came those 2 back-to-back mistakes and the searing epiphany.

          God has shown you His lights

          Night brought the needed clarity. After night Rosary, waiting for the house to fall silent, I reached for Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams.

          In one of those final pages, someone put a finger under the words,

I had to learn how to live again.

Lent 17 ~ Just Today, This Hour

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I thought to myself, Look at that. It’s not so difficult, the trick is to think small. I shouldn’t think of a whole book at once, that’s too big, too scary. I should think of it as one page at a time. And if I make each page the very best I can, when I put them all together to make a book, it will be the best book I can do. It’s not think big like everyone tells you, it’s think little, the same way you cross the beach in the sand, slogging along, one little step at a time, until you’ve made it.

And that thought carried over to, Maybe it’s not a lifetime – that’s not how to think about it. It’s just today. If today is the best I can make it, the lifetime will take care of itself. If this hour, right now had kitty petting, dinner cooking and book reading in it, and the next had a bubble bath and a call to my mom, and the next had painting with a cup of tea, an old movie and a walk in the woods, if I put all those hours together, what a lovely Red Letter life that would make.   ~  Susan Branch, Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams.

 

          I’ve always been the sort to borrow trouble from tomorrow. Maybe it has something to do with my growing up years. From the time I was very young, I learned to mistrust today’s happiness because tomorrow always brought sadness of some sort. No matter how happy I was today, I learned to scan the skies of tomorrow, to anticipate the dark clouds, to familiarise myself with their shape and form so as to soften the blow when it finally, inevitably fell.

          It never occurred to me that the tides of my young life had been orchestrated. That sorrow was always hot on the heels of my happiness simply because I had been raised by people who could never bear for me to be happy. Every bubble had to be pricked and burst. Every sun blotted out as soon as it rose – lest I think I was too good, too smart, too blessed and got carried away.

          Nothing I did was ever good enough. Every success was attributed to someone else – but every failure mine, and mine alone. Every little dream and achievement was held up against an impossible gold standard.

          And each time, it was too little, too small.

          Today, on this green~gold day of a thousand chattering breezes, more than 40 years after I was taught those lessons, my God Who loves me reminds me instead that,

It’s not think big like everyone tells you,

it’s think little

one little step at a time, until you’ve made it;

Not a lifetime,

It’s just today

This hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Great Light

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The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.   ~   Matthew 4: 16

          I awakened in the dark of pre-dawn Friday last week, puzzled at the unusual illumination of a room that is normally swathed in darkness at this time. Parting the curtains I realised it was the moon’s doing. Crowned with her aura, bright beyond words, she had flung her cloak of light across the expanse of the northern sky. Breathing in this incandescent beauty, peace settled its freeing mists gently into me.

on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen

          After 2 consecutive Thursdays of joyful news, naturally, my seeking heart was primed for another this week. Still, God’s ways not being ours, and not mine certainly, I prayed to forge ahead with steady hope even if the Thursday hours descended into its end with nothing for me.

          Thursday morn began with a brief dream. A dream of a telegram received from a family member, telling me the news of the death of his wife. But the telegram message ended unexpectedly with a triumphant

Yeayyy!!

          The gentle peace of the quiet moonlight snuggled deep within, the morning marched on, and soon, out of England last week, came the next – news of a royal couple trying to break free of Palace control.

          In both the Thursday dream and in that piece of news, the common theme was freedom. The dream showed the family member was finally free from a wife who seemed to tick all the boxes for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This severe narcissism had rendered the relative’s marriage of 5 decades a long march of endless madness and suffering.

          The royal couple seemed to be trying to break free in order to find true life. As it is with any news, people soon hustled themselves into 2 camps: the for and the against. Some commiserated and rejoiced with the couple. Nonetheless, louder still were the voices accusing them of derailing decades of adherence to monarchial norms.

          I feared for the young couple, even as I rejoiced with them for wanting to chart their own lives. Because it is never easy to redefine relationships, be it with someone suffering from NPD or the monarchy. When people like even the former chaplain to the Queen of England no less, says, The problem for the Sussexes is that they have chosen to put their own self-interests before their public duty and family, when words like blinkered, immature and self-pity are used to bolster such an opinion, each missile takes me back to my past. Of being in a prison pit, totally subject to another person’s control. Of being indoctrinated repeatedly that my own husband and children were not as important as my birth family. That my own life and all that matters to me must come a distant second to anything deemed more important by those who controlled me.

          Many aspects of the royal drama reminded me of the past where my life was not my own, not even God’s. It brought back to me the old days of knowing where the key to my prison was, yet being too incapacitated by fear to reach out and use it to unlock the door and sprint for freedom.

          Planning for a break is one thing; going public is another. To have your attempt to break free played out on social media, in press pits, in bars and restaurants, in offices as well as in homes, is taking the fight for freedom to another level. I can barely contend with 2 sides of the family even now foaming at the mouth waiting to sink their teeth into me for daring to break away to save my marriage, my family and my sanity; I cannot begin to imagine the number of snarling wolves circling this young pair bold enough to attempt something done only once before in the 1930s. The volcanic fallout can suffice to tempt them to choose the path of cowardice and to back away from the fires of change.

          Because fear of punishment is a powerful weapon. And its power is not lost on those who feed on our obedience, our love, our readiness to forgive.

          Our mute allegiance to commands.

          Our timidity.

          But is the pain and unhappiness wrought by someone’s  – or any institution’s – crippling dictates truly preferable to living free under the rule of God?

          Of course I cannot claim to know exactly what shade of freedom this young prince and his beloved seek. And taxpayers have every right to know how much of this freedom they have to pay for, as is their right to reject footing the bill for the freedom of the rich and privileged.

          But I’m looking at support of a different kind. Isn’t it telling when someone wilfully eschews much of the trappings of power and plaudits for a quieter life away from the blinding lights of pageantry? Doesn’t it count for something that this is a fight for the right to raise a family in the real world?

          Isn’t that a choice we should try to support even if we do not completely grasp all the reasons for it?

          About a year ago, I had a dream about the British royalty – my first, incidentally. However, it showed the older brother of the royal in question now, with his wife, living and thriving as commoners. They were at an outdoor market, perusing items on display, very casually dressed, just part of the crowd. No one even recognised them and they did absolutely nothing to seek out the old public adulation. In the dream, they were calm, and quietly happy to be a part of the mundane flow of the day.

          There were no forced smiles, no scripted moves, no performing for the public gallery. They were themselves.

And they had clearly found peace.

          At that time, I did not believe this would ever come to pass. Even in my relative’s case, I wondered if peace would ever come to that marriage lined and ruled so deeply by narcissism.

on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen

          But God used a Thursday to remind me once more that miracles mean light rising out of death, the unimaginable becoming reality.

          A miracle is also when a prisoner is finally, impossibly, set free, his freedom like the brightness of a moon, against which the darkness of night surrenders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boundaries

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          It’s strange, the journeys we go on when we step back and let God take charge. After months of trying to quiet myself, of trying to discern, of being as obedient as I could, I had hopes of a new Advent journey into some unknown. I longed for something new and refreshing – because I was tired out from the work year. Tired of the same ruts and trenches. The same struggles.

          I wanted a change and I hoped for this Advent to give me that. I tried to direct God a bit too – by asking to be gifted with the book, A Pathway Under The Gaze of Mary. I went to a place where I was sure I would find it. Being the Feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, it made me doubly certain that my prayers would be answered.

          Once more, I learned that my way was not God’s way. There was no book.

           So, I allowed my disappointment to steer me towards hearts that needed to be filled. The 12th of December passed quietly. The 13th brought little parcels of sweetness as we took a break for a quick holiday with the family.

          But the 14th dawned and the familiar restlessness was back. It was the feast day of an old friend, St. John of the Cross, to whom I owe my very life. There being no spot in my heart that I cordon off from him, I lay my seeking at his feet, asking,

What am I supposed to learn?

There is always something to learn when you come. So, what is it this time? All through my washing, my baking and cooking, I badgered. Tell me. Teach me.

          He helped me as I cooked. Watched over me as I napped. Yet, not a word passed through St. John’s lips.

          But as the rain-soaked night air pressed the hidden sun to sleep, two words from of old appeared once more,

Narcissist

Boundaries

          As any adult survivor of Narcissistic Personality Abuse will tell you, celebrations like Christmas are really tough. Because you’re expected to go home, to light fires of cheer and goodwill where your love is demanded in ways and means beyond you, but not valued nor treasured. Times like these, though brief, fill all the barrels for the coming year with enough hurt and tears to keep the sun out.

          And yet, the barrels keep filling and spilling over because the abuse never stops as long as contact remains. For the NPD parent firmly entrenched in narcissism, to stop abusing is to die. They keep hurting us in order to live on, believing in the deception that they have only our best interests at heart.

          But if we choose to draw the lines in the sand to cut off and separate our lives from theirs, we erect a wall they cannot climb – which is what I finally did, after more than 40 years of pain and madness that took my marriage and family life to the brink of tragedy and life-long sorrow. I was at the very edge of the cliff. Just before the rocks beneath me gave way, St. John of the Cross pulled me away. But he didn’t just leave me a safe distance from that cliff-end.

          St. John brought me face to face with God.

          And that day, I learned that Christian NPD parents are not above abusing the 4th Commandment: Honour thy father and mother, that all may go well with you. That day, I learned that I had been trained and conditioned to worship, not honour. And that was wrong. That day too, I learned that no vocation must be forsaken for the love of earth.

          My submission to Narcissistic Personality Abuse was destroying my vocation of Marriage and Family.

          In my situation, there was no option of standing up to my abusers. Not a chance of gently making them understand or even of forcing them to respect my vocation, because not only did this abuse in my family stretch back to two generations with multiple abusers and secret victims and abuse of varying degrees, it was also fed from both bloodlines. For every limit I had endeavoured to impose, there was always someone else with NPD in the family to back them up, to enforce the idea that they had done no wrong.

          That it was I who was wrong. And that they had been wronged by me.

          In God’s heart that day of my epiphany, I finally saw that the only way to save my marriage and family was to yield to a boundary my abusers could never cross.

          It’s now been 5 years since I’ve begun to learn the meaning of lying down in green meadows where a brook gurgles past blooms that dance in winds of freedom. Yet, every celebration time, the mist of fear and worry rises a little within me: Should the boundary remain? Should I return? And each time the question forms, I become afraid. I begin to fret over unlocked gates, passing cars. I tense up in familiar family grounds. I fear the phone, the mailman. All the things that bear the stains of past encounters.

          In those minutes when I give that question life, am unable to live. My mind gets caught in the trap of what-ifs. Prayer becomes careless, patience erodes, anger creeps in. And that is ominously telling. The boundary must remain for the vocation to live.

          In today’s coming though, St. John brings me a second reason for the boundary – it is to enable me to pray for my parents. The existence of the boundary means I am no longer trapped and held in bondage to the abuse that takes hostage my very mind and will. I am no longer caught up in anger and hurt and frustration. My mind is no longer clouded by lies and deception. My time is no longer taken up in paying homage to those who believe themselves to be God. I am free to live as God wants me to.

          But I have also been freed – to pray heart and soul, for my abusers. Because as the good priest made clear to me that day – the abuse makes me the person who knows exactly what to pray for them – that one day, like me, they too reach that shore where God’s outstretched Hand awaits them.

          And like me, they reach out and take It. And be freed.

          For that reason, the boundary must remain. The court of public opinion would assert that these are lines drawn with hate and unforgiveness.

          They are wrong. It is love.

 

 

 

 

Do Not

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Make it your rule never knowingly to say what is not strictly true.   ~   St. Francis de Sales

 

          A struggle from yesterday. And yet it is not a new one. It is a struggle I’ve known since my earliest memory. It is not the struggle against deceitful lying. It is the struggle of every adult survivor of narcissistic personality disorder abuse.

          It is the struggle against saying words and offering gestures that do not come from the heart, but uttered and done only to placate and appease.

          Words and gestures rooted in fear of an oppressor.

          Although this old fear has not made a captive of me yet, I can already sense its shadows inching closer. This time, it’s changed tactics. It is attacking me through one of my children. My child is being bullied by the daughter of a bully at my workplace.

          It is indeed no joke when they say the apple does not fall far from its tree!

          I gently but firmly counsel my daughter to put her heart in Christ’s. To resist fear and to step away from the shadows of a narcissist. As she obeys and struggles, as a mother, I want to further protect her.

          I want to appease the bully-mother – in the hopes that my child would be left alone. But knowing it is wrong, that it in itself will be the beginning of another hell, I resist.

          And yet, I struggle against this, because I see my child hurting and I want it to stop.

          Late in the evening yesterday, as the moans of the winds crested the hills, a blue kingfisher perched awhile on a fir branch. I’ve seen kingfishers everywhere around our property, but never on the firs. This one stayed there long enough for me to note its presence and to know in my heart that it was a sign.

          To ask a silent, Why? because whenever the kingfisher catches my heart, I know it is St. Francis of Assisi’s call to me to Quieten Down, Listen Up.

           I have my answer today – from another St. Francis.

Make it your rule never knowingly to say what is not strictly true.

          I understand his words. Do not lie to put the Beast at ease.

 

 

 

 

Lent 29 ~ When You Leave

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You will no sooner have resolved to give yourself to God than Hell will send out its forces against you. The devil himself, the arch-deceiver, will renew his warfare and turn all his forces against you. Enraged at your desertion from his party, he will leave nothing undone to ruin you. . .  .   ~   Venerable Louis of Granada, The Sinner’s Guide

 

          In much of my life, one thing that stands out is the reaction of people when I dared to leave their party. Breaking away from my NPD mother. Leaving the friendship of the narcissist university mate I mistook as a friend. Choosing Christian work principles over flamboyance of worldliness. Going against the Napoleonic mindset of our parish ‘elite’. Or even taking the side of Pope Francis(!) – finding light and strength in his words that seem to set other teeth on edge.

          In each of these situations and more, when I dare to break ranks, sometimes, just questioning because something seems off to me, – it gets people foaming. Their anger used to frighten me. I used to backpedal when this happened, damp down my doubts and allow people to tell me that I was wrong – if it would just help calm things down.

          But not any longer.

          This reaction when I choose to go against the flow because I sense the Will of God does not lie here, this reaction of not mere anger but absurd anger, is a red flag to me. It tells me something is not right. Something is not of the true Christian spirit here.

          Something else is in control.

Enraged at your desertion from his party, he will leave nothing undone to ruin you.

          I am tired as I read these words for I have felt and continue to suffer from their very flames. Not every one of my sufferings is because of satan’s fury. Not every time I’ve chosen my own path and suffered for it, it has been because I was obedient to God’s Will.

          But I have come to know this different edge of the knife when I choose the Cross of Christ over the deceiver’s will. The rage and hatred is different. It cuts differently. It makes you bleed differently too.

          I have every reason to fear it.

          But since last Thursday, an old prayer has found its way into my spirit. Christ’s last words on the Cross which He Himself gave me on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross some years ago.

Into Your hands I commend my spirit.

          Every time I sense something in the air, stirrings of unease, or even in bouts of praise and thanksgiving, in moments of deep peaceful stillness, my spirit naturally falls into this ancient prayer.

Into Your hands I commend my spirit.

          Everywhere I turn, this prayer lies in wait to catch my heart.

          Not once do I turn away to seek a different prayer. Not once.

 

 

 

 

 

Book of Family

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          I have always been a task-oriented person, living with lists in my head, living for the addictive high of triumphant crossing off of items on list after list after list. When little or nothing got ticked off, the days were empty and dry and that colored my hours with the ochre of frustration. The Advent list is a formidable one. Every Advent, I’d stand, eyeing the horizon of weeks before me, with a grim determination to find my Christmas joy through the accomplishments of baking, cooking, cleaning, teaching, card-making, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.

          I could only enjoy my husband and children if the home was in order, and if I had crossed enough off my list for the day.

          To slow down, to rest my spirit in the Advent hollows away from worldly winds, has never been easy. I have never really known Advent silence, never fully savoured its sacred fragrance. There was always something or someone from the world to draw me away from the pulse of true Christmas.

          And because I’ve never fully stilled my spirit in the deeps of Gloria angel~calls, I never saw that the hearts of my children and husband needed a special infilling of my presence. They yearned a different part of my love, one unsullied by rush, hurry and a crowding of days. More than the number of things I could cook them or do for them, my beautiful loves needed me to rest my heart in them, and not rush off before they had had their fill of me.

          But it was a bidding I could never completely fulfil, so deeply enmeshed was I in the web of busyness, woven from the strands of a hundred lists.

          Till this year.

          The months of seeking inner solitude lit a fresh pink dawn of difference. Ever since this Advent bloomed in the russet beauty of a year slowly edging to its yearned end, I sensed the closing of many doors. So many holiday-things – the books I had hoped to read, the cards I had hoped to make, the writing for my work that always got done in the winding down months of November and December – never materialized or were delayed.

          The past few years, I’ve always been brought a book that would take me on an inner retreat, right from the start of Advent. This had been my Lord’s way to prepare my heart and soul for Christmas.

          And, this year, like always, I waited for my book.

          What came was unexpected. The angels brought me the book of my very own Family.

          This Advent, I felt the firm tread of angels into my home, on a mission to take my heart and press it into the folds of my family. Never before have I been ‘buffeted’ from every angle, with family, as I have experienced this year. From the very first Advent morning, my husband and children have been before my eyes like never before. I am loving them and enjoying them and savouring their beauty as something I have always known, yet find new and fresh. I am doing all I have done before – all the cooking, the cleaning and the nurturing, and yet, there is a new lingering in embraces, a calm and happy savouring of little moments, delighting in shy buds of the precious that peek out through the day like tiny tea~roses amongst thorns and leaves alike.

          This Advent I learned the languidness that disdains the hurry to rush to the next call of worldly need.

          And suddenly, this unhurried loving has opened my eyes to the loving of other families around me. For the first time, I am not only seeing, but also finding life in witnessing the love that binds other parents and grandparents to their children and grandchildren. Where once, seeing this love would have tree-d a wistful ache within me for the same, now my spirit dances joy~swirls as I feast my eyes upon this faithful love of old blooming in other lives.

          The love within a family for one another, surpassed only by God’s love for us, dances before my new eyes, in a myriad of moves. The mother-in-law gently caring for her pregnant daughter-in-law. The trusting embrace of children secure in their father’s devotion. Old and worn grandparents giving to the last drop their love and caring for young grandchildren. The firm assurance of love of children leading their aged beloved down the steps, through the sunset of life. 

          True family love finds its soul through the treasuring of one another. True family love passes through tunnels of sacrifice, to arrive at wide pastures of love, blessed and nourished by the Lord of Love Eternal. Love for one another can never be forged through the absence of sacrifice and savouring. We can never love merely from the pulpit of advices and admonitions, distancing from the rigors of needed sacrifice. We cannot say we love if we are unable to press our own hearts against the little pulses of each family member’s daily journeys.

There is no real love without sacrifice. And when savouring and treasuring is diminished, love is blighted.

          We have lost much, my family and I. Many years spent in sorrowful servitude to parents who never knew what love meant. Nothing we did was ever enough for them. Grandparents who never trilled to little stories and small paws seeking old hands. The Baptisms and birthdays they missed and dismissed. Impatience at lives lived in quiet, away from worldly dictates. Mocking of the Holy Family values and simple joys we strived to live by, however imperfectly. We were the country bumpkins they were ashamed of because we eschewed city life and values. Our simplicity embarrassed them. They tried to polish us to fit into their wealthy and sophisticated social circles, but failed.

          And with that failure, their contempt knew no bounds.

          Yes, our loss has indeed be great, harder, because while they never loved us, we loved them with all our heart.

          Adult survivors of Narcissistic personality abuse live with the sneering and twisting voices of our jailers through too much of our lives. To escape, many of us keep busy.

Very busy.

          We live for lists. And we live for goals and achievements, because accomplishments hush the contempt of our narcissistic jailers who raised us to believe we were useless and incapable. For many of us, this busyness we escape to, blinds and deafens us to much of the healing beauty and truth in the world.

          But this Advent, the bitter potency of what my children and I have endured and lost through narcissistic parents, has slowly begun to mist into oblivion. The sorrowing wounds left behind by countless hackings, washed and bound by lives lived right, by the many people who simply choose to love their children and grandchildren.

          It is a choice based on the pure love of God. These good people may not be conscious of it, but it is a fact that when we love with a purity not shadowed by narcissism, we love with the Love of God.

          As I watch this love, I realize I have to make a conscious choice to move away from busyness and instead savour and enjoy my family. And when I begin, a miracle pearls in my own life – the miracle of Healing. As I heal, so too my family, through the witness of faithful love of other, true parents and grandparents. All loving their families as it was meant to be. Strangely, although we are not the immediate recipients of this love in other families, just seeing the way they have chosen to love, is streaming life and healing into our own wounds.

           I number among those struck blind and deaf from the hurt of abuse by those God chose to be my parents. But I believe in Jesus and Jesus promised that the blind will see and the deaf will hear. 

          That tender promise is blooming true in me now. Rather than seeking self-worth through accomplishments and meaningless servitude, I am willfully choosing to love and savour my family by lingering in family moments.

          And I am healing through each rose~blushed page turned, as I take the time to read my own book of family.

 

 

 

 

1999 ~ JESUS

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For most of my life, I lived in the bosom of shadows. I was held against my will there. But the Light always intrigued me. I’d part the leaves of my abode, and peer out into the golden cheer, and wonder how it’d be to live in the Light forever.

But as much as others chained me to darkness, I too allowed them, by the darkness in my own heart: my willfulness. The unwillingness to bend in yielding to God. I wanted to be free, but I wanted to do it my way, my time. I wanted joy, but not the Cross, and so, while I did carry my crosses, I did so with a great deal of unpleasantness. There were more than enough storms wrought by external circumstances in my life.

But I did my part in creating more.

I was born into this world with a singular purpose: To raise my birth mother’s name to perfumed heights. From my earliest memories, she drilled into me, day and night, that I was to go forth and make her, not Our Lady, known.

At every family gathering, in every conversation with family or friends, I had to seize opportunities to perfume the name of my earthly mother. I had to remember how to praise her, use the right words to let everyone know how well she cooked, how well she raised us, her many sacrifices. Woe betide me if I ever let one pass up. After every “marketing opportunity”, there’d be a post mortem of my performance at home, and the report revised and referred to for the next ten years.

When I married and swapped the dark roost of my childhood for another dark pit of my own making, I was forced to further grow into my role as Ambassador-for-my-mother. She wanted me to shine in my job, in my kitchen and shine spiritually too, and when others were drawn to my light, I had to point them, not to the good Lord, but to her – so all would bow down and pay my mother homage for her success in raising a good daughter.

There was one problem. I couldn’t cook. Born into a family of cooks, I struggled mightily to serve up half decent meals. My mother was immensely proud of her cooking skills, and I was deeply interested to learn from her. But for some strange reason, she kept me chained to just a couple of recipes, and refused to teach me more. She hid her recipes. She gave excuses. She fumed over the way I managed to underperform in cooking even those few dishes.

I tried but couldn’t get the dishes just right. I hadn’t married yet, and the only kitchen I had to practice in was hers, so there was no chance to cook alone and build up my confidence. But even after I married, my cooking standards remained low, because I remained obedient to her to never try anything other than what she had taught me. I didn’t think of buying a cookbook on my own because despite living miles away from her, I would have needed her permission. My mother had chained me to her from my birth, and I remained chained to her even after my marriage. So, my pathetic cooking continued its downward spiral. My mother writhed in agony over the shame I was to bring to her, by being the non-cook in a family of those born to please palates. She wrote me letters entreating me to try and learn to cook decently the dishes she had taught me or I’d bring so much shame to her – she, who was known to be a wonderful cook.

Letter after letter. Call after call.

Why letters, in this modern age? She wanted me to read and re-read her letters and commit her words of lament and admonishment to memory.

One night, the pain of those words got a bit too much. The house was in a mess. Dinner was in a worse mess. I looked over at my calm and unperturbed husband, and shame burned in me at how I had failed in my duties as a wife. My mother’s words of how I had failed the family numerous times before, as a child, and even then, as a wife, burned their roots into my soul. I was barren, couldn’t bear him children. I couldn’t keep house. I couldn’t cook a simple meal right.

That night, I reached the end of my tether. I left my husband watching tv and retired to bed to hide the tears that flowed unrestrained. Silently, I screamed and screamed and screamed to God to take my life. Over and over I sobbed like I had never before that He end my life before I hurt my husband who had loved me enough to marry me but whom I could not make happy.

I prayed for courage to drive the car over the cliff that it would appear to be an accident, so my family need never be shamed by the stigma of my suicide.

I screamed and sobbed deep into my pillow. At some point, I slept off.

Towards 2 or 3am in the dark night-dawn, I was awakened by an awareness. I sat up and looked around the dark room, searching. I turned and looked at my husband, sleeping in peace, blissfully unaware of the nutcase beside him. Finding nothing, I settled back on my pillow.

And nearly died of utter shock.

At the foot of my bed, towering above me, stood Jesus.

Jesus of the many paintings, and yet, a Jesus, never seen before. His eyes a blue-green that did not belong to this earth. There was none of the expected tenderness in His eyes. He fixed on me a look that reached deep into my soul.

The look reserved for a recalcitrant child.

After the initial paralysis, I suddenly realized I had tons to tell Him, and I had to do it fast, in case He left before I was finished. So, I let it all out. All the pain, all that had happened. My lips unmoving, from my heart to my Lord’s. On and on I went, slipping and skidding in my rush to have them all out.

He listened to me in silence. Still and utterly within my pool of pain, stood my Lord.

Slowly, I wound to a close, every heartache brought to the light.

In the stillness, He spoke words I never expected to hear:

Let go, Relax,

Let go, Relax,

Let go, Relax…

Over and over, they washed over me, like waves bearing the Light of Truth and Healing.

Let go, Relax,

Let go, Relax,

Let go, Relax…

I began to see another vision unfurl by His side. I saw Mother Mary wiping the wounds of her Son. They were not the wounds of the scourging. They seemed to be smaller ones, less severe. Wrought by me? Perhaps. But it was not the focus then.

Mother was tending to her Son’s wounds. Watching her, I had the strong sense that it should have been me doing it.

I fell asleep hearing the words, Let Go, Relax but I felt these final words imprinted on my soul: Wipe My Blood.

I woke up on the morrow no longer the same. I sat in the mess of my living room, and looked at the Jesus in a picture. I thought of his words, Let go, Relax, but didn’t ponder them, didn’t try to discern their meaning. I let the words hang suspended in my mind.

I called my mother and told her about the vision and the words I had not rehearsed or even thought of came out: From now on, I will cook but I don’t care how I cook because Jesus came and told me it’s not important.

Not a croak out of my mother.

Never again did I agonise over my cooking for her sake.

But in my ebullience over this culinary freedom, I failed to recall and ponder the last words He wrote on my soul:

Wipe My Blood.

The Light Called PLAY

There are those amongst us who fear a light called Play. 40-daily-life_1024[1]These persons live in suspicion and fear of children seeking freedom in play. From narcissistic parents, to rigid school administrators, to religious terrorists, this particular perception thrives and breathes in dark spaces where the light of play has no permission to enter. It seeks to take children away from play, to destroy their play spaces, pull down the soaring soul. The roots of this subtle malevolence may perhaps lie in the jealousy and envy of a child’s ability to escape from rules and restraints and to find liberation in play in all its forms.

Evert Pieters - Children at Play

Evert Pieters – Children at Play

These people with shadows in their souls, fail to comprehend the beauty of children squealing as swings lift them high above the ground. the-swing-illustration3-julie-morstad[1] They understand not the childish glee of water puddle dances and mud roll-abouts. girl-and-pig-in-mud[1] They mock the pebble-treasures carefully stored in bottles and boxes long discarded. They disdain the world of make-believe where children parade in clothes discovered in an attic raid, 7df9fb97a2d322a6fbe66d5447e795a0[1] There are those amongst us who abhor Play. They understand it not, and yet, instinctively, fear Play, because Play takes the child away from the captor. Play is a world that does not open its doors willingly to a soul that seeks to shackle and control. The world of water puddles and swings and giddy make-believe is a light so pure that it must hurt the soul nourished by only darkness, emptiness and a desire to control.

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And to escape that hurt caused by light, Soul Captors seek to destroy children’s playgrounds and everything associated with play.

From the social ladder-climbing mother who feels only shame in a child’s mud pies and flower-soups because it lacks trophy-worthiness,

To school administrators who schedule hours upon hours of cramming-classes after school because play is a waste of time,

To the teary child pushed to hours of piano practice to be performance ready at every family event,

To parents who tear up scrapbooks in shame and rage when exam results come in, because play brought Fs and not As,

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To the religious bigot who admonishes children that they’re better off memorizing religious texts than playing,

To men who were once children but who now booby-trap children’s playgrounds.

The fear in them wants playgrounds emptied, play reduced, manipulated, outlawed even.

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Because Play threatens to bring Light to those who want to remain in the shadows.

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