Orange Juice

I was close to 30 before I began to realize just how manipulative my mother was.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

By that time I was married, and we had a house in Dallas.  Mom was visiting us.

We were all in the kitchen having breakfast.  Mom was at the table, drinking orange juice.  I was at the stove, probably cooking eggs or pancakes or something — I know I had my hands full.  So I am not sure whether my husband was seated or standing.

I heard my mother say, “This orange juice is delicious.”  Either I heard her put down the empty glass, or I looked over to see.  Either way, I knew she had just finished the glass of juice that she had.

I heard my husband say, “I’m glad you like it.”

A few seconds’ pause.

Then, almost as if it were someone else speaking, I heard the words come out of my mouth, explaining to my husband, “That means she wants you to get her some more.”

Another few seconds’ pause, while he looked at me in surprise, then at my mother.  Finally he asked — in a tone that I recognized as one where he wasn’t sure what the rules were now, feeling his way, learning — “Would you like some more orange juice?”

My mother said, “Oh, yes, that would be nice,” as if I hadn’t spoken.

As if I hadn’t just begun training my own husband that what he was supposed to be doing all the time was to interpret her seemingly innocuous remarks, figure out what she wanted, and provide it.

In this case, she wanted to be waited on hand and foot.  She wanted someone else to take care of getting what she wanted.  It’s not like she wasn’t capable of getting her ass up from the table and walking the length of the kitchen to get to the refrigerator.  She just didn’t want to, BUT SHE STILL WANTED THAT JUICE.

And she couldn’t just ask for it:  “Would you mind getting me another glass of juice, please?”  Simple enough.  But that carries the risk of giving the other person agency, a choice in the matter, a decision about whether they will agree, or say “no”.

The solution?  Manipulate your daughter into doing it, or get her to start training her own husband to do it.

From healthy to toast…

See if you can guess where my family is on this continuum!

  • Something is broken, we know it’s broken, we can fix it right away and we’ll learn from it.
  • It’s broken, we know it’s broken, we fixed it, don’t worry, but we learned nothing, it will break again, I’m just doing my job.
  • It’s broken, we know it’s broken, but we don’t think we can afford to fix it.
  • It’s broken, but we don’t know it’s broken.
  • It’s not broken (it is, but we’re not willing to admit it).
  • It’s broken, we may or may not know it’s broken, but mostly, we don’t care enough to try to fix it, to learn how we could fix it better or even to accept help from people who care.

At one point we kind of did the second one: we “fixed” it (by writing a half-ass apology, by getting angry and writing nasty emails, telling me it was all my problem, etc).

Now things are solidly in the “toast” end.

Seth Godin writes about marketing, but I find his posts to be relevant to many more areas of life.  This list was brazenly copied from “Different Kinds of Broken Systems“.

Wake Up Call

I have wondered many times whether my parents would have stayed married if my mom had had a resource like Flylady to help her get her shit together.

Now I wonder what my mom would have made of this essay by Flylady!  LOL. No one in our family has ever dared tell it like this.  Holy shit, Mom can’t possibly be responsible for any of the problem!

I have used the phrase that, “my mother liked to be taken care of, rather than taking care of anyone else.”  Flylady uses the rather more straightforward and less delicate word, “coddling”.

My mother also was not good at solving her own problems.  Her idea of doing something about a problem was to pray about it.  It worked about as well as you might think it would.

At first when I came across this essay I found it sort of funny.  Now after a second or third reading, I am finding it rather sad.

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“Anger has a way of eating at you and it really only scratches the surface toward the person you are angry with. If the truth be told and we never like to hear the truth; you are really angry with yourself and just trying to put the blame on your spouse or children. Now don’t email complaining that I have no clue how much they can mess up; because I have seen others deal with this problem and find success at setting the example for them and before you know it; they are picking up after themselves.

“So what is your problem? YOU ARE STILL PLAYING THE MARTYR ROLE! And no one loves a martyr! Even you!  I am not about to hold your hand and say there there! It will be OK, because it is not! unless you get off your Franny and do something to get rid of your martyrdom and anger toward your family!

“Yes I am tough! I have never pretended to be anything else! But I am this way because you need an attitude adjustment! Your anger is pushing your family further and further away from you and if you don’t stop this behavior you are going to be a bitter old person with no one! And do you want to know something else! YOUR HOME WILL STILL BE MESSY! All because you never learned the most important lesson I am trying to teach you!

“You should bless your home for you! Not for your kids, husband or wife! But YOU! You deserve to live in a home that is comfortable and inviting! NO WHINING HERE EITHER!

“You married your husband or wife because you loved him/her! You did not have your babies to be slaves in your home! Hold your horses here! NO WHINING ALLOWED! Finish reading this before you blast off an email! It is your responsibility to teach your children respect and love; if they see none of this from you, how are they ever going to learn it!

“Just look at the example you have been setting for them; whiny, anger, ugly hurtful words. No wonder no one wants to be around you! You have become an ogre. Your family is walking on eggshells around you and they run to keep from making you mad! Is this any way to live and treat your family! Do you want to know why you are doing this?

“It is all because you don’t love yourself enough to stop! YOU are constantly blaming others and not taking responsibilities for your own actions! If you will look around the room you will see your stuff every where too! I can hear the words coming out of your mouth now, “but I am going to get back to that in a bit!” So how long has it been there anyway! 6 months! A year! When we don’t pick up after ourselves we tell the rest of the family that it is OK to leave things lying around! Mom doesn’t mind she does it all the time. You may not say the words, but they are coming through loud and clear! It is only when you set the example and quit trying to preach what you are not practicing that your family will begin to take notice and start helping!

<snip>

I have tried every way in the world to get this across to you! Holding your hand just doesn’t do it! Because you will continue to refocus the blame! It is up to you! I didn’t make the rules either! As women we may not like it, but guess what we wouldn’t want it any other way either! So accept your responsibility for setting the tone in your home and just quit whining about it! NO SULKING or POUTING either! That is whining without spoken words.

“In the south we say, “If momma ain’t happy; ain’t nobody happy!” and I am going to add something new to this phrase! I am the only one that can truly make ME Happy! When you realize this you will be FLYing!

“Bless your home for you! Quit blaming others and set the example in love you will see a remarkable change in your attitude and the attitudes of everyone in your home!

“I love you all, but I won’t coddle you!”

 

After the Last Straw

This was not written by me, but with a few changes (from “friend” to “family”) — it could have been.  Originally written by lightshouse, I first found a paraphrasing on a thread at outofthefog.net:

you are ASSUMING that if a big enough tragedy struck you, these people would be there for you. They would care. They would make you pots of chicken soup and babysit your children and go the distance for you if ever needed them desperately. Because they know that’s what you’d unfailingly do for them, of course.

But hold on a second — you’re the one who never troubles them. You’re the one who usually gives more than you get. You’re the one they like because you’re so “easy” to know. You don’t make requests, much less demands. You’ve been a piece of cake — a free ride.

And what kind of person really wants the kind of friend who makes sure a person never has to go out of their way too much?

A lame friend, that’s who. A self-centered, uncaring, unempathetic, fair-weather friend. They just LOVE people who never ask for things, because they don’t like giving much, and they like to get more than they give! When you are at your absolute lowest moment in life and most desperately need the support of others, these people you haven’t asked enough from are the ones who will shame, dump, and even smear you.

Fine time for someone to start treating you like garbage, right? But that’s when their true colors will come right through — when suddenly, they have to make a significant effort to stand by you. Because they won’t do it, and they never planned to have to.

All of a sudden, they’ll be telling you that you’re just too high-maintenance, and they’re too busy, too overwhelmed, or too important to support you. They’ll criticize and reject you, and they’ll try to make you feel like you’re just impossible to live with. The truth is, they’re suddenly not getting more than they give, and that’s just not acceptable to them. You have to go back to being their nice, easy friend who never asks anything of them, or you’ve got to go.

You’ll be shocked and horrified, you won’t believe what they’ll do, and you’ll wonder what is so wrong with the world that in your time of deepest need or pain, there is yet another awful realization heaped on your shoulders — your “friend” has no empathy and doesn’t like to give.

Character Assassination With Sugar On Top

This is my SIL in a nutshell (where she belongs).  Read the whole article by Gail Meyers here.
“This is how a narcissist gossips without appearing to be slandering anyone. The narcissist may even be perceived as a concerned, caring person. For example, [the Narcissist]… expresses her great concern… about [The Target’s] fragile emotional state. In reality, [the Narcissist] is being abusive and [the Target] is responding to the abuse, but [the Narcissist] is using that response as proof of your instability.”

So in a very real sense, the narcissist uses your reactions of anger, frustration or outrage to their abuse, to cause you to look crazy to other people.

“When A Narcissist Tells You

a tale in which they are the innocent victim of some irrational monster… you are being recruited as a flying monkey.” ~~ Gail Meyers

Which is precisely what Susan did to me with my family, and what my mother also did to the older siblings.  I suppose I ought to feel sorry for them, having got out of the clutches of one, only to have another marry into the group — and someday, I hope I can feel sorry for them.  I do realize what a fucked-up mess they are, on an intellectual level, but I’m not at the point of empathy yet.

When I wrote my personal Declaration of Independence to my family in 2013, my sister wrote back and admitted that she refused to read what I had written, but nonetheless felt able to write her own angry screed in return.  Among the items on her numbered list:

(7) If you had a bad relationship with Mom, please think about the fact that Dad certainly colored your opinion — and as a 6-,7-, or 8- year old, you would not have even been aware of it.

The irony is breathtaking.
If anyone in my family colored anyone else’s opinions, it was Mom blaming Dad for just about everything, and playing the martyr to make people feel sorry for her.

Gail writes,

What I have realized is the flying monkeys generally have their own reasons for behaving the way they do…  They may know the truth, but lack the backbone to stand up for what is right. They may themselves fear becoming a target of the narcissist. They may have been a target of the narcissist in the past. They may have been taught to get along with everyone regardless. They may also be a narcissist themselves or hiding their own troubling behavior.

While the situation with my mother is more complicated — with The Susan Incident, I can put names to almost every one of those reasons.  What I can’t believe is that Gail left out the one that always worked for my mother, and works for Susan:

“They feel sorry for the narcissist.”

The full article by Gail Meyers can be read here.