Tag Archives: narcissism

My Parents, My Aunt’s New House, and Taxes

If my father were to find out that I hadn’t filed taxes for four years, I would never hear the end of it. He would basically tell me I’m a horrible, disorganized person who is so irresponsible. I hear his voice now, sighing my name in judgement-filled disappointment. And that judgement would kick me straight in the stomach yet again, because I’d believe that there is something truly wrong with me, and that I’ll never be able to resolve my deep-rooted mess of a self.

But when it’s my own father who hasn’t filed the taxes, well, then the world is out to get him. He is being kind of enough to co-sign a loan for my divorced aunt who is attempting to purchase a house, and in order to do this they’ve asked for two years worth of back taxes documentation. Well, he doesn’t have that because while he’s paid what he believes he owes, he’s never actually filed for 2011-2013.

The reality of the situation is that both of my parents could be in very big trouble for not filing taxes. It sounds like he has actually paid the amount owed, but he can’t know for sure because he hasn’t actually filed and filled out the paperwork. My mother is concerned about this, of course, but whenever she brings it up with him he will go off on her and call her a jerk. He really likes to call her a jerk.

It’s so unfortunate for her to be in this spot where she has absolutely no control over the finances. If they were to be audited they could both be thrown in jail. Now, you could say that she should be more pro-active in ensuring her own taxes are filed on time, but my father keeps all of the financial information in boxes that even he isn’t able to find easily. He’s been procrastinating on filing taxes because everything is a giant mess. I wonder where I get this being a mess thing from, hmm.

To be “fair” to my father, he does have terminal prostate cancer, and I’m sure he doesn’t want to spend his remaining days doing taxes. Maybe in his mind, since the doctors told him he would die five years ago, he was putting it off so that he’d never actually have to deal with it. Who knows. It’s hard to task a dying man with filing paperwork to the IRS, but he’s lived much longer than the doctors have thought and he typically spends his days not schlepping up to Sloan Kettering in NYC watching television or napping.

I’m concerned about my parents, but there really isn’t anything I can do. My dad is so ridiculously stubborn and he won’t change that. He spent a good ten minutes yelling (over the phone) at my aunt’s loan officer because he thought that he only had to show two years of taxes for 2013 and 2014, and in fact they need 2012 and 2013. Well, he just loves to yell. He’s just so angry and I don’t know if I’ve ever met a person with more anger in his heart – no empathy at all for other people just trying to do their job – no concern for his own wife who he could be setting up for jail time. No, he’ll just spend all his time screaming at everyone else, because the whole world is against him, clearly.

What is a grown adult daughter to do in these situations? My mother is dealing with her own mother’s finances and taxes, which is quite ironic given she doesn’t have a handle on her own. My mother doesn’t get sad, ever – as the daughter of a narcissist herself she was not allowed to have emotions – but she is clearly frustrated by my father’s failure to just pay the taxes. She laughs it off with her nervous laugh, because her only emotion as far as I can tell is “anxious.” There is nothing I can do, but it upsets me that my father, even after all of these years, even after he has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, even after his children have grown up and removed that stress from him, is still as bitter, selfish, and full of rage as he ever was. I’d like for there to be a day when he finally realizes that the world isn’t out to get him, that criticism can be constructive, that people deserve to be treated with respect. But that will never happen. I only get to hope that my parents do not end up in jail and my dad finally files the taxes.

Where’s the Drug to Forget Who You Were to Become Who You Are

I don’t have many happy memories of childhood. The memories I do have seem to jump from one moment of being yelled at or hit by my father to being bullied in school. Fourth grade. Dad is pissed I am too scared to swallow a pill needed for my chronic infections. He slaps me across my face. Hard. I’m stunned because this is the first time in his hitting me where I am convinced I did not deserve it. Sixth grade. Other student in art class takes a stuffed animal I brought in to draw in a still life and completely destroys it when I’m not looking. Third grade. Kids call me the cootie girl and make fun of me. I spend my recess times along singing by myself waiting for this supposed “fun” time to fly by. First grade??? I didn’t clean my room. Dad comes home from work, screams at me to come into his room, bend over the bed. I know what I’m in for. His belt slides quickly out of his oversized pants, (the woosh of leather sliding through pant loops is unforgettable and so sharp in my mind), and I don’t know which is more horrifying, his uncontrollable, inconsolable rage, or the snap of the belt against my back and behind as I squirm and learn to, in some ways, appreciate the pain. It is the only thing in the world that feels right. It is what I deserve. Twelfth grade. Half-assed attempt at suicide. Cry for help.

Yet here I am… still here. I guess I should give myself credit for that. But I’m still that girl whose only understanding of self was someone who was not worth much of anything at all. My comfort zone was playing the role of scape goat. Want someone to blame for all of your problems? Blame me. It’s easier that way. Everyone needs a scape goat.

The problem is, no one really needs a scape goat. No want wants a martyr. People want people who are confident and effective. They want leaders who can get shit done. A good friend recently explained to me that one of my biggest flaws in leadership is that I don’t communicate decisions clearly. I’m so whishy washy. You want to know why I don’t communicate decisions clearly? Because I can’t make them. If a decision must be made by instinct than I don’t trust mine. I grew up being told time and again that whatever I thought wasn’t right. If it’s a decision made by data then sure this should be easier but there’s never enough data to support decisions that in large part must be based on intuition and enacted with full confidence.

So every single day, I’m faced with this huge problem — if I don’t trust my decisions, even on the most minute detail, how can I expect anyone else to? And the way leadership works, you don’t really get a lot of chances. You fuck up once and your cover is blown. You need to be clear, solid, directed, and consistent. That shouldn’t be so hard. But my challenge is I make my decisions based on understanding what other people want. That’s how I was raised. I take in a lot of information, pay close attention to how people react to something, and then come out with a solution which is a compromise of what everyone else wants. Only when I really feel it is what “other people want” can I confidently back it up.  My own opinions/ideas/thoughts have absolutely no worth. At least not until I can create a final project/result and it is a big reveal moment. When I can show versus tell – then, and only then, can I have confidence in my own ideas and outputs.

This all is rather disastrous professionally. I’ve clearly added value in the past when I’m able to just run with things, but I crumble when I need to lead. I can’t quite decide yet if I just don’t want to be a leader or if I want to be a leader but I really suck at it today. Every single tiny choice builds up great anxiety in my chest. I have physical pain in my chest daily due to being frozen over decisions. I fear I’m not intelligent enough to pick door number one or door number two. My communication skills are beyond pathetic and people run out of patience with me. I find myself fantasizing about moving to New Mexico and working as a waitress at a diner for the rest of my life because then I don’t have to make any choices – I just have to take orders.

But I also don’t like just taking orders. Even if an individual contributor-type job paid the same as a managerial position, I would feel stifled in that. I do have ideas. I do like to make processes better. I do see the bigger picture and understand very quickly how one thing can effect many others. I feel like there’s something there of value, though not everyone values it. And often this skill, if you’d call it that, is actually a determent to success. Instead of focusing on what moves the needle now I want to fix the bigger picture. I feel this unrelenting, heavy, exasperating pull to fix the architecture of the bigger picture. And I spend too much time stuck in this as a way to avoid dealing with the real issue – that I can’t actually make day-to-day decisions… whether that be what to wear or how to delegate a task. And, as a result, I drive everyone nuts. I wouldn’t want to work with me.

At the end of the day, I do need a job. And if I have to have a job – which I do – I want one where I know I’m adding value. As someone who was raised to “serve” versus to “lead,” I am only happy when I accomplish a task set out for me and am rewarded for not just meeting expectations but overachieving on this task. The clearer the goal and more my own doing can get me there, the more productive I am and the more success I achieve. When things aren’t so cut and dry, when there’s a thousand things to do in order to do a remotely good job and there’s only time in the day for four of them, I am crippled beyond belief. I still get work done, but I do it at night, when I can escape the confines of the office, where I can breathe and think and focus.

I want more than anything to be successful right now. It really isn’t about the money, though that’s a nice plus. I want to make a difference. I want to prove to myself and others that I can get shit done. That I can lead. That I can be a great leader. But clearly I don’t actually believe this to be possible. How could I? I’ve been beaten down so many times throughout my life, I’ve been told I’m into good enough and others are better than I am, I’ve been bullied and ridiculed (sometimes for good reason) and I am at the point where I must admit that will always be me… that is never going to change. Either I learn to deal with it – or embrace it – or I’m not sure what.

I know I have to stop being so hard on myself… I honestly feel like I might have a heart attack any day now… or at least some full-blown “take me to the mental hospital” panic attack — but there isn’t time to deal with it effectively. I mean, you can say there isn’t time to not deal with it, but nothing I’ve tried so far has worked. I’m tired of costly therapy that goes no where. At the end of the day, maybe I’m just not cut out for this… business world. I don’t know. There must be others out there in the world who were raised in a similar way I was — children of narcissists, low self esteem, bullied as children, bipolar II, highly anxious, and still making their way in the world somehow. Who are they and how do they cope? Is it possible to rise above all of this to make quick, confident decisions and actually lead effectively? Or is this hopeless? No psychologist would tell me it’s hopeless – they get paid to “fix” these problems – but I want to know, really, if this is hopeless – hopeless in that I’m never going to be the right fit for this, and hopeless in that I should get used to lower-paying jobs where I can maintain a stable living and “dot the i’s” all day in someone else’s vowel-only alphabet.

 

In Limbo but Trying to Relax in my Looney Toon life

With so much up in the air and this cold that won’t go away and my grandfather’s deteriorating condition it’s certainly hard to do what I need to do this week – relax. Every day spent at home is certainly an eye-opening reminder of the makings of my psyche, for better or worse. It’s useful as I pry myself out of my narcissistic personality to address head on the makings of this neurotic mind.

Are your parents crazy? Are everyone’s parents crazy? Are mine just a bit more crazy? It made me chuckle out loud yesterday when – out at a very awkward lunch with my father at the local Indian Buffet – he described my mother as “looney toons.” While that, in fact, may be true, he isn’t exactly Mr. Sane himself. What both of my parents do not have is the ability to understand how their actions effect other people. It isn’t that they don’t care, they just don’t even stop to empathize with another person. Their lives are, individually, more important than any other thing in the world, except maybe – conservative politics, to my dad – and the holocaust, to my mom.

We walked into this nearly-empty Indian Buffet restaurant for lunch and my father, a regular frequenter of the establishment, puts on his awkward fake charm introducing me to the workers at the restaurant, making a comment about “this is my daughter, isn’t she beautiful?” and then he makes some awkward comment about the woman who owns the establishment and how beautiful she is two, he’s “surrounded by beautiful women” and for her to, jokingly, not tell her husband he said so. While that alone was not terrible, what gets to me is how unaware he is of other people and what is going on in their minds. Our waiter – a very awkward probably 18-year-old Indian male who seemed to speak little English and possibly have some sort of minor autism – was greeted with the following message by my father “this is my daughter. Ask her out, maybe you’ll have a date.” What dad? What was that?

I hoped the waiter he didn’t hear or understand what my father had just said. I briefly thought to explain why it was absolutely inappropriate to say such a thing, but saying anything of the sort would be fruitless in use anyway. I got up immediately and walked to the buffet, blushing. Despite letting everyone at the restaurant know how “beautiful” I am this didn’t stop him from later in the dining experience, when I was explaining my braces and how they work, spurting out that my teeth are yellow and I should get them whitened (as if I do not know this already or are not completely self-conscious about it.) A person who thinks about how other people feel might say the same in different words — maybe even “have you ever tried teeth whitening, I was looking into it myself” or “I heard about this teeth whitening thing but it probably costs a lot, are you going to try that for your wedding? I hear a lot of brides do.” There are just more elegant ways of telling someone such news, or not at all. But with him the comment comes out of no where in the middle of an otherwise momentary pleasant conversation. Sure – you’re spending thousands of dollars to straighten your teeth and fix your overbite, and I just told everyone here how beautiful you are – but your teeth are yellow. Nevermind that my father’s teeth are cracked and falling a part, that he has been morbidly obese in various ranges throughout my entire life, and that his own teeth are not exactly pearly white. I held my breath and changed topics.

The Game of Risk: We’d Rather Not Play at All

One thing I never quite realized about my father until this week was just how risk adverse he is. It’s not just risk aversion, which played into his career where his job was to calculate risk, he’s absolutely paranoid. For example, when I got dropped off at my friend’s bridal shower after he screamed at me for failing to have the right address (my phone internet was not working as I planned to look it up in my Facebook history and it took a few minutes or drive time to get into a better reception area) he then didn’t believe me that I had seen the restaurant a few blocks back to let me out of the car, as he was worried I might get hurt. This from a man who used to beat me with my belt and to this day if he gets the strength for it can shove my mother across the room. His definition of hurt needs some work. I convinced him to let me out and walk back a few blocks to the restaurant. He sat on the curb until he saw I got inside, as if I was 2.

My father also could have been a great physicist – for all the crazy he is a very intelligent man. I had forgotten and reminded my week by his sister that he received a full ride to MIT for undergrad, chose not to even apply to Princeton, and went to a much smaller, less prestigious school despite being able to go practically anywhere he wanted for free with his stellar academic career. He didn’t want to go so far from home or to be in a bigger school, so he went somewhere with 1000 people only. Then as a grad student he dropped out of Cornell, unable to take the pressure, it seems.

His parents are fascinating as well – a father who was both to a man from Naples who disappeared when he was less than two – and a Slovakian woman who raised him with a German stepfather in a very Catholic household. He was in the Navy and raised his kids as such. Seeing the shell of the man he once was at the hospital this week is unnerving as he’s always been full of spunk and an energy you know not to piss off. Now he can only make out a few grumbles while squeezing his fist so tight you think he’s going to rip through his hand.

My dad’s mother, on the other hand, is a Jewish woman of Hungarian and Polish decent. She, at the least, has the ability to somewhat understand how her actions effect other people. Yet her six children – my dad being the oldest of the six – all have their larger-than life personalities shaped by her parenting. She’s a strong woman in my mind, though a bit OCD, and I can see where my father gets his monotone range of panic over any unsettling situation from her. Everything that doesn’t go her way is, momentarily, the end of the world. It’s the same with my dad, though she doesn’t react in the same violent frightening way.

Mom is in Her Own Little World

Mrs. Looney Toons, my mother, is probably certifiably crazy. It’s interesting pitting the psyches of my mother and father against each other because in a lot of ways they are the same – living in their own self-entitled world. However my father – to give him some credit – has a limited grasp on reality (working to support a family of four for so many years and a wife who quickly spends a ton of money without understanding of what this does to ones savings can do such a thing to a person.)

A friend of mine recently shared some insightful wisdom on how kids don’t generally know how to do things well, they must have a model to follow. If the parents are constantly screaming at each other and being violent and then the child starts to act up and the child is punished for her behavior, well, then, the parents actually taught the child the same behavior they are punishing her for. It’s a vicious cycle. Same goes for my achilles heel – my lacking ability to clean up my room and keep my life organized. While this was the main source of my own beatings as a child, I had a mother who would simultaneously tell me to clean up my room while freaking out should I ever suggest throwing anything away. My father’s organization skills were no less troubling, his own room and desk flooded with papers and books. Yet somehow I had to understand how to keep things organized without throwing away any of the items. I guess organization comes naturally to some without the model but for me it was very difficult and to this day is a huge challenge. My mind runs on a thousand times in this paranoid loop of whether I will ever need an item before I can part with it – making cleaning take much longer than it would for the average person and causing more stress than it ever should. No wonder I avoid it.

While my father will comment about just anything about you without concern or thought for how such a statement makes you feel, my mother’s comments are much more shallow. Her primary goals are for you as a child are for you to look good in pictures and have a job that she can explain ad nauseam to anyone she encounters who she might possibly somehow know. For example, a neighbor walking down the street with her dog, obviously not intending to stop and listen to my mom’s story vomit for fifteen minutes, got caught up in this by stopping to say an unavoidable hello passing our house while we were out front. My mom – completely unable to grasp that someone may have better things to do then hear her life story du jour – starts to tell my life story, my sister’s life story, the story of what is happening to my dad’s father in the hospital. The woman, who is trying to not be rude, smiles and nods at her dog tugs at his lease and tries to move her along. It isn’t that the woman wanted to not stop and chat at all, but my mother – likely aspergian to some degree – doesn’t have it in her mind to read people’s faces and understand it’s time to stop talking.

In another example of my mother’s childish narcissism, and this is something she does often, we were at a sort of outdoor museum and in one garden area a wedding was being held. It was in public so it was her right to peer inside like many others were doing – however, while the other group remained further back from the opening between two sets of bushes she walked right up to the hole, loudly announcing that her daughter is looking for a wedding venue too. She wasn’t talking to the people inside the wedding itself, she was talking to the air, because she thinks people care. To her credit, this is how she gets into conversations with others about whatever topic she wants to be talking about at the moment – someone usually takes the bait and often it’s another Jewish woman with a similar penchant for rambling on and on and on. My mother, to her credit, has no social fear. She can walk  up to just about anyone and start talking to them on the topic of just about anything. I don’t know how she does it as the thought of such a thing makes me shrivel up and a panic attack arise, but she doesn’t have this fear at all inside of her. Maybe it’s a blessing. But it can be quite awkward and embarrassing in many situations. As my mom explained to the air and to the workers blocking the opening to the wedding that her daughter is looking for a wedding venue, her daughter, struck with the panic of embarrassment, disappeared into another exhibit.

Both of my parents are in many ways like children who are unable to be pleased. Another conversation I had yesterday with my aunt was around how I feel terrible for never buying my cousins and grandparents gifts but I have an honest neurosis around buying a gift that isn’t good enough for them. She said that’s silly, that it’s the thought that counts. I countered with the reminder that my parents would judge any gift I got them with contention, and often the gift would be not good enough for their tastes. My father would complain about it only to later make some comment boasting about his daughter got him a gift. My mother would, unless I got lucky, complain that the gift wasn’t useful or it was something she would buy anyway or she just didn’t like it. So I rarely buy people gifts. It’s not just a financial thing, it’s also this mental freak out I have every time I try to get anyone something.

What my immediate family never had was this ability to care for each other. Everyone is in their own world of self importance. We are a family of egos, my parents hyper-critical of everyone but themselves – and myself and my sister – caught up in this web of learned narcissism paired with a lack of trust in who we really are. That is why, for me, it is so remarkably refreshing to be in a relationship with a man who is the complete opposite of what I know. Where love in my family is only defined by financial support and the basics of life – “I love you therefore I feed you” – my relationship is filled with love and care. I’ve had all of this love boiling up inside of me for so long that I didn’t know where to put it or how to use it. But it really is simple. I love my guy and we can sit and cuddle and laugh and – I try my best – to care for each other no matter the other’s choices. His life is not my life and vice versa. I have no right to judge his choices as long as they do not severely effect my well being. And he doesn’t judge at all. He is there for me in my best and my worst and my worst again. That’s what actual love is. Money can get in the way but as long as you focus on yourself and the money you need to live the life you want and support your children in the way you want then it’s not an issue. Financial independence – from each other – in a relationship makes love possible. Then it can’t be about what the other person provides beyond love, care, and ongoing moral support for the chaos that is life.

A Weekend in the Country of Westchester with My Parents and Knives

Visiting my parents is always entertaining, if you want to spin it up positively. If they could go 30 seconds without screaming at each other, I’d gladly hand them a reward. They are both just overgrown kids who throw frequent temper tantrums. No wonder I have issues.

My favorite part of the visit is always the standard ask your opinion and then yell at you for giving it conversation. Take, for example, the remodeled upstairs bathroom, where the tiling has been done extremely poorly and my parents are trying to figure out what to do about it. It would be great if when they ask me for my opinion they actually wanted it, or even if they knew what sort of opinion they’d like in return so I could just play their silly little game. However, there’s never a right answer.

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What is it that we’re living for? Applause, applause?

What motivates you? Is it still the same today as it was when you were a child? I’m fascinated by what motivates people to achieve their own levels of greatness, and what keeps others from achieving their potential.

As humans, we crave recognition.

“…many younger women had an irrepressible desire to be renowned. They had been told as a child that they could grow up to accomplish great things,” writes psychologist and author of the book Wander Woman Marcia Reynolds. This is not the case in every culture, but in Americans, many of us crave to feel special and be recognized for being more than the pack. Continue reading