April 15, 2008

When I grow up, I wanna be...

"Even though it is of no use, you must keep on trying." ~Gore Vidal

"More than at any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." ~ Woody Allen

When I grow up, I wanna be....hummmm...not sure. What I am sure of is what I don't wanna be. Maybe that's how other people narrow down their options, too. I don't know what I want but I know what I don't want.

Once my husband gave me the pink slip after my thirty-odd-year career, it was time to take stock of the person I had become. Time to create my own reality, or so metaphysicians wrote in their number-one best sellers. Time to rewrite my life. To set myself free. To blossom like a peace rose. To soar like a butterfly. Time to be everything a liberated twenty-first century woman could be if she’d only open her tearful eyes and see the plethora of riches waiting to be plucked from life’s limitless basket of rich blessings.

Golden opportunities were supposedly knocking on my door and only thing I heard was a dull thud.

I didn’t hate myself for having made the choice to be a fulltime homemaker, handyman, relocation specialist, chief cook and bottle washer, though I certainly hated the circumstances of my life. I hear tell most people face an existential crisis when CEOs replace wizened employees with ambitious upstarts energized by naiveté. My situation wasn’t worse than a lot of people’s, but it was certainly worse than some.

Even if my marriage had ‘failed’ the bigger failure to me was being permanently changed because someone I cared for, didn’t like me anymore. How do we change our self-protective reactions to rejection, abandonment or abuse? If we redefine vulnerability & kindness as weaknesses, our defensive behavior will protect us, but we limit our lives as a consequence.

When are we too defensive? When aren't we defensive enough? If we don't know what we want to be or where we're headed, how will we know when we're off-course?

I wanted to write about Healthy Narcissism, not because it’s a frivolous exercise in self-indulgence. Understanding what psychologists meant by a healthily narcissistic person bolstered my courage to be more assertive, aggressive and self-protective. Still, standing up for myself increased my uncertainty. I was fraught with anxiety that replicating what I deemed to be narcissistic would further reduce my heart to the size of a bullet.

I knew what I didn't want: to be so afraid of rejection that my ego defenses increased to an unhealthy degree. It's okay to stand up. It's not okay to stand on people’s heads.
I began looking for more information on what it meant to be healthily narcissistic as a woman. The male model for independent self-reliance didn’t quite fit with my traditional female values. There’s not much information about healthy narcissism; for the most part, everyone is warning us to avoid Ns---not how to be healthily N ourselves.

"We can consider the process of healthy growth to be a never ending series of free choice situations, confronting each individual at every point throughout his life, in which he must choose between the delights of safety and growth, dependence and independence, regression and progression, immaturity and maturity." ~Abraham Maslow

In my Elsa Ronningstam bible, Identifying and Understanding the Narcissistic Personality, she lists characteristics of normal narcissism on pages 72-73. She writes:

1-"A realistic self-appraisal of both abilities and limitations."

Okay, Elsa. I won’t be trying out for the new Jazz cheerleader position though I do have prior experience on the basketball court. At 56, I know my limitations. Thing is, anybody who has lived with a narcissist knows their limitations. If they don’t, all they have to do is ask the narcissist.

2-"The capacity to tolerate disapproval, criticism and rejection as well as realistic approval and praise of real accomplishment and successes." 

My ability to tolerate rejection is getting better. I know that’s true because two cats live with me now. There's no better example of narcissistic grandiosity than self-centered rag-tag farm cats (Who do they think they are, anyway?)

3-"Grandiose fantasies function as motivators and guidelines for achievements and goals."

This blog might fit the category of a grandiose fantasy. It’s been my goal for a few years though I set it aside for awhile. I don’t figure most folks want to read a blog brimming with exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!! and ggggrrrrrrrsssssss... 

4-"Healthy affect regulation with ability to feel self-conscious emotions such as envy, shame and pride and tolerance to feeling inferiority and humiliation, as well as to challenge and success-related excitement; ability to internal control, sense of power and constructive aggression."

I’ve been running a message board for years now. My capacity to tolerate humiliation has increased and basically, I have no pride left to protect. 

5-"Self-preservation, self-regard, and healthy entitlement involving ability to feel that one deserves what is earned and received."

I never had a problem feeling I deserved my blue ribbons. When the praises came in for my cinnamon rolls, I knew in the bottom of my heart that I merited the glory people offered. I still have a problem with not getting what I worked for (like lifetime retirement benefits) but hey, that’s a guy's free agency for ya. I’m working on it.

6-"The ability for empathy, compassion and a sense of belongingness and appreciation of commitment and mutual relationships."

Doing pretty good on this one, too. Even when my world collapsed, I asked people for help because I believed they cared. And yea, that’s another reason why this blog exists. To give back. It’s a mutual thing.

7-"Super-ego regulation involving self-approval, pride, constructive self-criticism, and a realistic balance between attainable ideals and actual capability."

Doing better on this one. It's true my Mom and Dad demanded I get myself up off the floor---pronto. Being rated by outside judges on my landing was kinda tough. I’m quite realistic about ideals that are attainable (perfection=NOT) along with an honest appraisal of my actual capability. That’s why I went back to school to learn how to type. Still working on dangling participles and prepositional placement. It’s just where I’m at.

I think when I grow old, I want to be myself. An all-the-way-to-the-core nice person; but this time: expecting to be treated as kindly as I treat others. That means I do not have to be nice to folks who don’t reciprocate and there’s no need to feel guilty about burning cinnamon rolls once in awhile.

Hugs to all,


  1. "I think when I grow old, I want to be myself."

    Amen, amen amen!

    The Skin Horse would be proud of you [remember the Velveteen Rabbit?]

    It's about becoming real.

    Hugs back,


  2. Yeah. I want to be myself . . . am still figuring out who that is.

    I'm rooting for you. ;-)

    "It's about becoming real."

    Finding reality and living it. For the children of narcissists, that is sometimes a bit of a labyrinth. But it is worth the effort . . . to be real.

  3. Gee Whiz! I guess there's more to when it comes to posting replies to people's comments. Do i have to approve my own comment and what happens if my comment doesn't meet my approval? Do I deny my own reply?

    There's nothing quite as comical as a 56-year-old dinosaur learning how to use 21st Century technology.

    Where's the postcards?? I'm pretty good at licking stamps.

    Thank you Stormchild and Katherine for replying to my message. Blogging is a strange experience. It's like standing on stage without seeing the audience. CyberStage-Fright freezes up the fingers when a blank page sits there just waiting for me to Do Something. So, I'm Doing Something. LOL

    It's comforting to know people are there even if I can't see ya.

    The Identity Crisis we face after an emotional trauma is underrated for the potentially irrevocable damage we face. It's certainly not common knowledge which means most people encounter the Abyss by themselves, without anyone telling them it's NORMAL to feel lost, empty, hollow...well, normal in an abnormal way.

    I did NOT know who I was when everything I had identified with was shattered. Slowly, all the bits and pieces of myself are coming back together.

    Finding our way out of the abyss requires more courage than we even knew we had.

    Many hugs to both of you,


  4. CZ~

    Hmm... my friends keep telling me I am very courageous. I don't feel all that courageous - mostly just desperate and afraid and like a little girl lost. The pieces are still pretty scattered for me. But you story gives me added hope in the recovery of them. ;-)

    Smiling... cyberstage fright. I like that - it fits. Sometimes, I wonder if I'm crazy putting this stuff out there for everyone to read. But it helps - me and those who read it. So... maybe that is what courage is.

    Hugs back.

  5. Dear Katherine,

    Writing helps everyone. Not just the writer who reconstructs his or her life in written word, but also readers who identify with what is written. Disciplining myself to put life experiences in a logical sequence, was fundamental to "Making It Real."

    If we grew up in abusive households or were in an abusive relationship, it is very hard to make sense of the Bad Times considering there are also Good Times. Until we write it out in alphabet letters, we are susceptible to diminishing the relevance of those Bad Times and focusing (desperately, I might add!) on the Good Times.

    Putting our lives back together is like a jig-saw puzzle and even if 3/4 of the puzzle is in place, we can't see the entire picture without the last few pieces reluctantly added to the whole.

    This process may require an enormous amount of time or it may happen quickly. Every person's story is different and that's what makes blogging such a powerfully healing experience---for everyone.


  6. Hmm... diminishing the relevance of the bad times and desperately clinging to the good times. Yeah. I still wonder if I am overstating the bad. And yet, I have left so much out. It does help to put it in alphabet letters. ;-) But it is also hard - harder than I thought it would be. There is a lot more there, but what I have written will suffice for now.
    Thank you.

  7. Good Great GRAND STUFF !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    "I’ve been running a message board for years now. My capacity to tolerate humiliation has increased and basically, I have no pride left to protect."



  8. This is a beautiful post. "I think when I grow old, I want to be myself. An all-the-way-to-the-core nice person; but this time: expecting to be treated as kindly as I treat others." Me too.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...