My close friends and I were discussing the role that narcissists have played in our lives.
None of us have a Psych degree but we have all had issues with narcissists whether it was someone in our social circle, someone we dated, someone in our family or if they were in-laws.
Maybe you know a narcissists. Narcissists do not know empathy to others, they think the world revolves around them and they will tell lies to people to turn them against each other. If anyone makes them insecure, they try to change everyone’s opinion of the person that makes them insecure so people see them in a negative manner.
Research states that Narcissistic Personality Disorder is rare but it seems that our group of friends have encountered more than our fair share of narcissists.
I have a few theories.
The first theory consists on our influence of others. I believe that we all vibrate at a certain level of energy. It could be good energy or bad. That energy ripples out and effects those around us. People are affected whether we are spreading love, light and positivity or if we are spreading selfishness, lies and negativity.
Our behavior affects others. And other’s behavior effects us.
Narcissists are confusing beings because they disguise their true selves and most people are fooled. They pass as perfectly nice people. They are good at fooling people because that is their natural state.
When you are the victim of a narcissist, you feel alone because everyone else thinks that they narcissist is great.
Narcissists can cause a lot of damage in families and social circles.
One theory I have to the inflated perceived narcissistic population is that some people may grow up with a narcissist parent or grandparent and that a child may grow learning that manipulation is simply the natural way you treat people. These people are probably not narcissists in their core but are merely using the “skills” that they learned from their narcissist parent grandparent.
This theory has a positive spin as a person may grow up with a narcissist parent or grandparent and learn that that is not how you treat people.
My second theory is that some social circles, including the one that I am belong to, are very inclusive and since narcissists are good at hiding their true colors which are not beautiful like a rainbow. But my social circle does not want to be closed off so we will take the risk.
Widowhood has made me wiser.
When I became a widow, I began to examine every area of my life. Heck, I am still examining and learning.
I want to make sure I am living my life to it’s fullest potential and that I surround myself with love and not negativity.
I began to truly appreciate those who love me and my daughter.
But I also became really good at noticing people who are toxic, people who are phony and people who had an ulterior motive to our friendship.
Before widowhood, I would have brushed off those feelings and given the offenders the benefit of the doubt.
And on top of that, I would have gone out of my way to make sure they liked me because I was a people pleaser.
I ignored my intuition on so many accounts, despite the fact that my intuition is almost always right.
But now that I am a widow, I can spot a phony person right away. I can tell when a person is trying to manipulate me. I can see all the ulterior motives.
I have learned to listen to and trust my intuition.
I think it is a widow superpower.
So in the beginning of widowhood, I removed toxic people from my life. Part of it was necessity. But mostly because I didn’t have enough bandwidth to handle the drama.
But then it became clear to me that I just didn’t want to deal with the drama. I only have so many hours of the day and our lives only consist of so many days and I do not want to spend them with toxic people.
And while narcissists are toxic, there are other types of toxic people. I just opened with narcissists because they were a clear example and my life had been affected by a narcissist for many years and I hold the greatest empathy for anyone dealing with a narcissist.
Some toxic people manipulate. Some tear others down in order to make others look good. Some argue constantly. Some do whatever it takes to make you feel sh*tty about yourself.
So I took a stand. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Because I was never good at saying no to people.
I decided that I was going to say no to toxicity.
I had to cut some people out of my life. I needed to keep positive people around me and my daughter and I needed to use what energy I had to focus on the important things.
And toxic people don’t like being cut out.
They are persistent.
They will try to manipulate you and when they can’t manipulate you, they will try to manipulate those around you. They will try to change other’s view of you to gain sympathy for themselves.
Simply cutting toxic people out of your life isn’t enough.
I learned that you need to set firm boundaries.
I used to feel that boundaries were purely a physical matter like having people stay out of the master bedroom or deciding who has a spare key to your house. Or when you are a kid and your sibling is annoying you and you say that there is an invisible wall that they can not cross.
But boundaries are also emotional, mental, and social.
How you let people treat you is a boundary. Do you allow people to walk all over you? Do you let people treat you poorly? Do you let people boss you around? Do you let people make you feel small?
I used to have a friend in my younger days who would cancel plans with me on a moments notice because a guy asked her out. I would be upset but I let her do it. And she would do it again…and again…and again. I did not have the self-esteem to realize that this behavior was not acceptable and I did not set any boundaries.
In case you are wondering, I have not spoken to that person since my wedding. It all makes sense to me now. Before I was with Bryon, I was a people pleaser and not only did I let people treat me poorly, I would try to get those people to like me more. But Bryon set the boundary for me. He would tell me when my friendships were one sided and he would advise me not to put any effort into those friendships. And this friend did not like that she could not push me around if Bryon was in the picture.
But Bryon isn’t here to help me set boundaries. It is a skill that I have been learning to implement.
This is my life.
It is okay to stand up for myself. You don’t deserve to be treated like a doormat.
It’s okay to choose not to hang out with someone because they make you feel poorly. Your friendship is a privilege, not a right.
It’s okay to delete someone from social media.
Not everyone deserves an explanation about your life choices.
I write in this blog and will continue to do so. But just because I am open about my grief does not mean that everyone is privy to my personal life. I have had to exercise my boundaries and make it clear that I determine what I share.
Setting boundaries is about taking care of yourself and protecting yourself (and those you love) from negativity.
You know what that means! Time for some Good Vibrations Gratitude!
These are the 5 things I am grateful for this week.
Seeing my bestie
Last weekend my daughter and traveled to Chicago to see my best friend. We also took a side trip to Wisconsin. Travel post will be coming.
It was great to see my friend. We met at the Young Republican Leadership Conference in Washington, DC in 2006. She was sitting in front of me on the bus ride back to the hotel from the Romanian Embassy.
We wouldn’t become close until later that year.
We both pretty much have retired from politics but we usually try to see each other once or twice a year.
It’s always great to see each other and catch up.
2. Lunch with “Uncle Greg”
On our return trip from Wisconsin, we stopped to visit a close friend of mine. Greg was one of Bryon’s best friends and he has been so good to our daughter. You can see his kindness demonstrated below as he gave the girls their own cheesehead hats.
(I don’t usually use people’s names but I can’t think of a proper blog name for Greg. Though I am sure Bryon would have suggested a few inappropriate ones).
Pro-Tip when visiting Wisconsin: make sure you leave some space in your luggage because those cheesehead hats take up a lot of room. Though I guess she could have worn it on the plane…
We had an amazing lunch complete with Wisconsin cheese curds.
I also got to meet Uncle Greg’s new girlfriend.
I don’t give my stamp of approval to just anyone. I am not Marshall Erickson.
But I am happy to say that Uncle Greg’s new girlfriend has my stamp of approval. I can’t wait for him to bring her to Albany so everyone can meet her.
3. Making it home in time for our favorite community helper’s birthday
We made it back in time on Monday for a special birthday. Another one of Maddy’s “uncles”, who I refer to as “our favorite community helper”, was celebrating his birthday. I took my daughter out for dinner and our favorite community helper and his fiancee (a.k.a. Carter’s parents) met up with us. I didn’t get a picture with our favorite community helper, but here is a picture of my daughter being silly. I was tired and probably not the best company, but these two are family to me and it was important to see our favorite community helper on his birthday.
4. A night at the museum
This week was the opening of Canstruction. A good friend (I will call her “the architect”) has done this event for 8 years. Canstruction collects cans and other non-perishable food and builds structures to raise money for food banks in the region.
I am so proud of my friend.
On Wednesday, there was a reception that I was lucky enough to attend.
It only took 18 and a half months but I am finally ANGRY.
I have felt bits of anger here and there but this is the first time that I have truly felt ANGRY.
I wrote about my sad grief mix a few weeks ago but now I realize I need an ANGER mix.
Please comment with any suggestions.
I have never listened to ANGRY girl music but I have a feeling I am about to start. I only know Alanis.
And I have always wondered- What did Dave Coulier do?
For the record, I want to start that I don’t care what the so-called grief experts (who probably have fancy degrees and learned everything in a textbook and probably haven’t actually experienced grief) say- grief doesn’t come all packaged up in neat little stages.
Yes, at first I was in shock and denial.
But then I jumped over to dialogue and bargaining because I started this blog 5 months after Bryon died.
And now I am somewhere between “anger” and “depression and detachment”.
Except I am not helpless. F*ck that.
The following chart gives a more accurate representation of expectation(left) versus reality (right).
I am ANGRY that my husband and the life I was supposed to be living were stolen from me.
I am ANGRY that my dreams died with my husband.
I am ANGRY that I will probably not have another child.
I am ANGRY that I lost those 5 months with my daughter when my husband was in the ICU. I am grateful for my parents for taking care of her and I know I needed to be with Bryon, advocating for him and overseeing his care but I won’t get those five months back.
I am ANGRY that I had to sit in an ICU room watching my husband cling to his life.
I am ANGRY that I had to watch him suffer.
I am ANGRY that he was hooked up on machines and we couldn’t talk. We didn’t get any closure.
I am ANGRY because in my daughters daycare class there is a chart that lists the kids and their parents name and my daughter is the only one that only has one parent listed.
I am ANGRY because at age 3, she already has a better understanding of death than many adults.
I am ANGRY whenever I hear other parents complain that their spouses are gone for a couple of days. Yes, it’s hard. I remember when Bryon had to go away for work. But it’s a whole lot harder when they are gone forever.
I am ANGRY that the doctors didn’t save Bryon nor did they seem to care. Maybe it would have been different if it had been their loved one.
I am ANGRY at the healthcare system for being so shitty. It’s all about money, not people.
I am ANGRY at God. I was taught that he was a loving God and that was all a lie.
I am ANGRY at all the people who tell me that “God doesn’t hate you”. Um…okay…
I get ANGRY when I see everyone living their perfect lives on Facebook. By perfect, I mean living lives where they don’t have a dead spouse. Because to me, that is perfect. I get no marriage is perfect. Bryon and I did not have a perfect marriage. But even on our worst day, it is still better than the hell I am living.
I am ANGRY that I am turning 40 this year and that I am in this position. So much for playing it safe and making good life choices.
I am ANGRY that I am alone and broken.
I am ANGRY that I am viewed as damaged.
I am ANGRY that I don’t fit into my own life anymore. I am a square peg in a world full of round holes.
I am ANGRY that despite having lots of loving friends, I am still lonely.
I am ANGRY because I have lost my innocence. If I ever fall in love again (which I probably won’t because I am broken and damaged) I will always have that fear that they could die young too. This could all happen again.
These are the 5 thing I am grateful for this weekend.
Seeing Les Miserables
I mentioned in my previous post about how I saw Les Miserables on a school trip to NYC my senior year of high school and how excited I was to see it last weekend. I had a great time.I was also intrigued at how sophisticated set design became in 22 years.
Les Miserables, 2018
We did learn a valuable lesson. When you see a show at Proctors in Schenectady, make sure you make reservations if you want to eat at any of the nearby restaurants. We didn’t. None of us thought of it. Ooops. Luckily there was a stand at the theater that sold sandwiches, desserts and there was also a bar.
This whole dinner debacle demonstrated a shift in my thinking. The old Kerry would stress about everything. Bryon used to say that I searched for things to worry about. The old Kerry would have freaked out that we didn’t have dinner reservations. The New Kerry just thought “I am not really that hungry anyway but there is a sandwich stand. If this is the worse thing that happens to me all night, then this is a great night. I am out with friends and I am seeing a musical that I love.”
I know I have grown as a person and it is nice to see evidence of that growth.
My daughter’s first haircut
I had so many emotions watching (and snap chatting) this. This was my daughters first haircut. There wasn’t much to cut off but her hair did grown in uneven so it was evened out. My hairdresser also put the hair in an envelope for me.
So. Many. Emotions. I tell you.
My daughter loved going to the salon and had a great time being “grown up”.
I was texting Kimmy Gibbler and I told her that I was annoyed by all screaming kids and equally pushy parents. This was the unimpressed selfie I took and sent her. I was over it.
But it was hard to stay annoyed when I saw how much my daughter enjoyed herself. She has been telling everyone about the Princess Ball and in great detail too.
I was actually surprised at the detailed questions she asked each of the princesses. She didn’t just talk about dresses and tiaras. She asked Anna about the speed of Kristoff’s sled. My daughter is one smart cookie.
Because they are delicious. I love guacamole and avocado toast.
I had my yearly review at my job. It went well. I am thankful for my job. They hired me two months after Bryon died. Some people told me I should take more time off but I felt it was time to go back to work. Except for three weeks when my FMLA ran out, I hadn’t worked in 7 months. I was ready. That and our health insurance coverage through Bryon’s employment ended so that was also a motivating factor for going back to work.
Before I became a sole parent, I never thought I would like working from home. But now I feel like I couldn’t do it any other way. My schedule allows complete flexibility. I work a lot at night but that gives me the time to go to the gym, make doctors appointments and have the occasional lunch with friends. It also gives me wiggle room if my daughter is home sick or there is a snow day. The flexibility of my job helps me thrive (more like survive) in the other areas of my life.
My employer also provides us with a large amount of educational resources so I am able to keep up the continuing education I need to maintain my credential. That is very helpful because now I can’t go off and attend conferences anymore.
They also have an amazing program that gives each employee five days to volunteer and give back to the community. My company also donate money to grant wishes of employees in need every holiday season. I literally cried when they announced who won the wishes and told their stories. My company has a heart.
I also work with an amazing team. I have only talked to them on the phone and through email but they are great people.
And one last bonus gratitude-
The random 3 Hello Kitty pull ups
My daughter is mostly potty trained but still wears pull ups at night. I didn’t realize that we were down to one last pull up until she went to put it on. I know, I am totally failing at this motherhood thing lately. Actually I am pretty sure I am failing at life in general.I got annoyed at myself because that means I have to go out in the storm today and get a package of pull ups. But really no big deal.
Well my daughter had a big poop in that one last pull up. Of all nights. This story happened literally right before I typed this so it is in the middle of the night (because I don’t sleep anymore). I didn’t want to have to get her dressed and go to the 24 hour pharmacy to get pull ups.
I told myself not to panic. We had to have a random pull up somewhere in the house or maybe the car.
So I am very thankful for those three random Hello Kitty Pull-ups.
I am sure she is going to love reading this when she is older. She is probably going to be so unimpressed. She will probably say something like “Hey Mom, remember that time when you wrote about how I shit my pants and put it on the internet for the whole world to read?” And then I will remind her that we all have shit our pants at one time or another and that the post was actually about princesses and pull ups.
Those are the 6 things I am grateful for. What are you grateful for this week?
Last Friday I went to go see Les Miserables at Proctors Theater in Schenectady with some friends. Les Miserables was the first Broadway show I had ever seen.
It was 1996 and I was a senior in high school. My cross country team traveled from Ellsworth, ME to NYC to run in the Foot Locker Regional race. Our coach, Mr Beardsley, was also the sophomore English teacher and taught a unit on theater. We learned about Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon.
Because of Mr. Beardsley, there is probably a whole generation of Ellsworth graduates who love the theater, or at the very least, appreciate it.
So I saw Les Miserables at the Imperial Theater on Broadway with my cross country team. I was very moved by the play. I laughed. I cried. I got laughed at because I cried. The experience left an impression on me.
Three years later in 1999, I was studying in England and I saw Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theater in London.
I started dating Bryon in 2008 and I learned that he came from a family that was involved in community theater. I shared with Bryon how much I loved Les Miserables and Bryon told me hated it. In fact his whole family hated it. I got mocked for it through the years. I think it was too pedestrian for them or something. Whatever.
Eventually Bryon did give me his reason which was simply that it was too f*ucking depressing. Fair enough.
We only saw two Broadway plays in our years together. One was Pippen (Music Box Theater) and the other was Cats (technically West End, which is the London version and it was on a cruise ship.)
We meant to see more but it was one of those things that we figured we’d always have more time.
Bryon loved Cats. It was the first and last musical he ever saw.
Personally, I thought it was only okay.
Before the show started last Friday, my friends and I had grabbed some dinner, dessert and drinks and we were chatting. I recalled how much I loved Les Miserables and how much Bryon hated it.
And then I told my friends about my list.
Before I started dating Bryon, I had written a list of ten attributes I wanted in a future mate. I guess it was to keep me focused. I kept getting into “pseudo relationships” with men who didn’t appreciate me so at this point, I was focused on myself and what I wanted.
The top three things on the list were Republican, Catholic and had to be a Red Sox fan. I was told by many that that combination was not going to happen. It surprised them that I found it in a New Yorker.
Number 4 was that I wanted my mate to be Irish. Bryon was only 1/8 Irish so that was stretching it.
And I can’t really remember what the other items on this important list were. I mean, probably something about being drug-free, employed and with no criminal record.
But I do remember one thing. I wanted a man who had varied interests. Someone who could go to wine tasting and to the symphony one night and eat hot dogs and drink beers at Fenway the next.
We never did make it to the symphony but Bryon was completely comfortable in a tux. And a kilt too. He loved formal nights on the cruise and didn’t understand why others would not dress up.
We did catch a few evening concerts at Tanglewood. We picnicked on the lawn with our infant daughter.
We went wine tasting and we were those people who would taste our wine and say things like “It’s light and crisp and I can taste the touch of citrus. Very refreshing.”
We did attend many baseball games. Most were local games. We tried to catch the Tri-City Valley Cats when the Lowell Spinners were in town. We usually went on the 4th of July because never had plans on the actual holiday and we figured nothing was more American than baseball.
Though our daughter’s first baseball game was at Pawtucket watching the Paw Sox.
Bryon thought the clam chowder was wicked good. Okay, that might be my wording. Bryon was not shy at making fun of my New England vernacular.
Our most memorable game was a month after we started dating. Our relationship still a secret from our friends as we were unsure where it was heading and we didn’t want to create gossip within our political circle. We met up for a secret weekend in Boston. It was also the weekend of my 30th birthday and Bryon took me a Red Sox game.
It was his first and last Fenway game.
But I loved that Bryon was content doing a variety of different activities.
He was a Renaissance man. I told him that once and he proudly agreed.
He liked all sports. Well, except Nascar.
He was a lawyer but he was also really good at math and economics.
He knew theater and music.
He knew how to cook.
He liked animals.
He liked history and was always up for seeing landmarks.
He loved fine dining but he also appreciated the McRib.
Generally he wasn’t into Museums but he always wanted to go to the Jello Museum. That dream was left unfulfilled.
Whenever we went on a cruise, we always went a few days early to explore the departure port. (We also did that to create a buffer in case the winter weather didn’t cooperate.)
Our first cruise was out of Miami and we took a side trip to Key West.
We visited the Southernmost Point, drank margaritas and watched the sunset on Mallory Square, visited the cats at the Hemingway House, found the Southernmost Red Sox bar and Bryon indulged my need to see the start of Route 1.
I have two random anecdotes from that Key West trip.
The first was that there was a chicken crossing the road and Bryon decides he wants to catch it. But he aborted the mission halfway through and said he wasn’t drunk enough for that to be a good idea.
The second was at night when we left the Red Sox bar. We were walking back to our motel and we pass a ghost tour that was walking towards us. Bryon tells everyone on the tour that he is alive and he is not a ghost. They all laugh. Then there were some random people walking behind the tour and Bryon goes up to them and says “Oooooh, I’m a ghost. Ooooooh.” Those people laugh too.
And I laugh at the irony because while Bryon isn’t a ghost, he’s dead and could be a ghost if he really wanted to be. He’d find a way to make it happen.
That trip also took us to Miami where we ate Cuban food, tried Cuban coffee, drove by Elian Gonzalez’s uncles house and had dinner at a tapas bar that was in a gas station (and we were surprisingly under dressed for the establishment.)
Bryon had all these interests and this intense zest for life. Whenever we traveled anywhere, Bryon tried to fit in as much as he could. We ate local food, drank local beer, saw as many landmarks as possible and he would try to squeeze in a local sporting event.
How else would I explain that I saw the Ottawa soccer club (Capital City) play Toronto? I think Bryon might have bought the team scarf. If he did, I will find it someday.
Bryon was so good for me because I have always been a restless soul but I never knew how to go out, explore and enjoy my life.
I did not have the confidence to follow my dreams.
Bryon taught me how to really live.
And in some ways, he is still teaching me how to live. Even though he is dead.
I enjoyed all our adventures but I never realized how much they taught me until Bryon was gone. When he was alive, I never had to make choices or plan anything. He did all the vacation planning. He asked for my input, combined it with his wants and came up with an itinerary. He would even plot it all on a google map. Planning always made him happy and I was content to just show up and enjoy the vacation.
But now he is gone. I can’t rely on him pave the way to living anymore.
If I want to continue to live, it’s up to me.
When I booked my airline tickets for my trip to Vegas last year, it was the first time I booked airline tickets since 2009. Because Bryon always did it.
And even though my Chicago best friend was in my Vegas with me, it felt weird to be having adventures without Bryon.
A month after that trip, I drove out to Michigan to visit my Maine best friend and I drove across New York State and Southern Ontario. I couldn’t help but think about Bryon when I drove by the Labatt Brewery. And the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. I know Bryon would have been lobbying to stop- “But Kerry, we have to stop. It’s the CANADIAN Baseball Hall of Fame.”
Even though I explore the world with my daughter and friends, I do feel an emptiness because I am not sharing it with Bryon. And a sadness when it hits me that I wouldn’t be recounting the adventure to Bryon because he’s not waiting for me at home.
It’s a fear of mine that I will lose my desire to truly live before I can pass on the desire to learn and see the world to my daughter.