July 05, 2010

Failing to Notice

Interior with poppies and reading woman by Lizzy Hohlenberg, 1905

This picture comforts me. Not sure why, it just does. I hung it over the doorway opposite my desk where it collects dust and cobwebs because I fail to notice I’ve failed to notice it’s even there. Isn’t that how it is with most things? We get so used to seeing something we don’t even see it anymore. I guess my deep thought for the day concerns the importance of ‘observation’. Paying attention. Looking for patterns we fail to notice because they have become part of the woodwork framing our lives.

R.D. Laing is credited with a quote that sits next to my computer. It’s on a wooden block with other favorite quotes which are rotated from time to time to make sure I notice they’re there.

He wrote, “The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice and because we fail to notice what we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and desires.” ~R.D. Laing

I’ve been absent from my blog for a couple of weeks, even though my butt has been glued to my computer chair! For several years now, I’ve threatened building a website about narcissism, hoping to reach people before they get hurt. Learning about narcissism before the inevitable harm rarely happens. Unfortunately. Usually, we can’t believe someone will be as bad as they were in the past until they knock us to our knees, rob us blind, steal our bank accounts, our hearts, our minds, and our integrity. We failed to notice we were failing to notice the pattern to their badness. There’s a pattern to our behavior too which like the lovely painting over my doorway, might be even harder to notice when our thoughts and desires are covered in cobwebs and dust.

The new website should be finished in a few weeks unless I run into technical problems that are basically unpredictable because I don’t know what I don’t know until I know I don’t know it; then I know who to turn to: my son. The programming genius. That’s not an exaggeration. He really is. Topping off his intellectual genius, he’s also a kind, humble and compassionate person. He tells me his niceness is why he’s single. He says the nicest girls in the world always fall for the baddest guys in the world. “Like you, Mom. What makes nice girls fall for bad guys, anyway?”

“Maybe, kiddo,” I explain, “it’s because nice girls fail to notice that they’ve failed to notice how marvelously amazing it is to be kind. We also fail to notice that those exciting guys will continue to be exciting—as in leaving a girls stranded, broken, and broke.”

I console him saying he’ll meet a nice girl someday who will appreciate a chubby computer programmer who’s biggest thrill is finding the ‘bug’ in a million lines of code. One day, a woman in his workplace will look up and realize she failed to notice that consistently kind man who’s reliable, honest, respectful, ambitious, identifies with Knights of the Old Republic, and is slightly boring which makes him a safe partner. Why? Because that is the way he’s always been.

The best indicator of someone's behavior in the future is their behavior in the past.
Speaking of failing to notice, though: I worked on a perfect image for the new Web of Narcissism website. Photoshop has become another passionate interest. Not that I’m very good at it yet since Photoshopping is a ‘skill’ .

So yesterday, I got out my Photoshop textbook and put a beautiful border around the perfect image I found after surfing the cyberseas for forty days and forty nights. I measured a damask border as precisely as my old eyes can manage, including a perfect drop shadow around the frame for a three-dimensional effect. I carefully sized the pixels to fit the new webpage, even making three alternative sizes that would work within space limitations. Then I uploaded three sizes to my Photobucket account (by the way, I love Photobucket as much as Photoshop so if you don’t have a Photobucket account, you might want to take a look at what they offer for ‘free’.)

After uploading three different sizes uniquely bordered to enhance the image AND coordinate with the new website's background colors, I uploaded each size on my new website. I picked the size that seemed 'right' to me and then? And then I noticed that I had failed to notice a handful of tourists in the trees and three tourists posed next to the castle and two tourists meandering along the fortress wall. How could I not notice the tourists after being meticulously anal about the border dimension and drop shadow opacity?

Sometimes we are so focused on the big picture, you see, we fail to notice the details.
At first I thought maybe the little touristas weren't a problem because of the work required getting rid of them. I had already invested three hours working on the image so it looked ‘just right’. It’s hard to admit making a foolish mistake and then starting over; it’s easy to justify living with a mistake to protect your ego. “Maybe people won’t notice!” crossed my mind. However, I know myself well enough to predict my future reactions. I’d look at that picture and instead of seeing the lovely border, all I’d see was my mistake and ya know, it takes too much precious energy to keep lying to myself about having failed to notice that I had failed to notice the tourists. Or lying to myself and saying, I subconsciously wanted the touristas in the background.

Three hours of the July 4th holiday were a ‘sunk cost’. I deleted the images and started over, laughing the whole time about failing to notice what was right in front of my eyes. Kinda like my marriage when I focused on the big picture and failed to notice he was a tourist.

Sometimes you just have to marvel that some of us big-picture-folks miss seeing the trees because well, because all we see is the beauty of the forest.

Hugs all,


  1. I love the picture also. I picture your house being a very warm, peaceful place. After living in more than one home full of abuse, mine is now peaceful also.

    Keep up the good, hard work on WON. It will all be worth it. I read both sites, and couldn't have gotten better without them.

    As far as your son, he will someday have himself a wonderful, kind woman to share life with. As for now, he already has one in you.


  2. CZBZ,

    Congratulations on starting up a website. We moved from our old blog (you have us in your link list) to our new website with attached blog. We are now www.female-offenders.com and the blog is Survivors Safehouse.

    I mention it because if you go to the website you can see the header art picture that we had made for us specifically by an artist and it was very reasonable price and only took a few days. If you like it and just use the contact form on the front page and our site administrator can send you his contact page and e-mail.

    Good luck on your new venture and thank you again for commenting on our blog in the past.

  3. Hi CZ!
    I was wondering where you were and am very happy that everything is okay and you were being creative!
    I sure can relate with this post. Reminded me of my recent interaction telling a fencebuilder at his fencetable that I'm sometimes a fencesitter -- and not once realizing the irony of that. I didn't see the obvious. I also asked his last name again and he pointed to a tattoo of his family's last name, which was kind of staring me in my face, although that time, I guess, I can see why I was not quite focused on the tattoo. The fencebuilder had me a bit distracted, which brings me to another thought. Bad boys.

    I walked away from many nice men when I was in my twenties and thirties, one of the reasons being, was that they were too nice. Now, they all have nice wives!
    Except for one. His wife became a lesbian, but they remain friends cause he really is a nice guy.
    He's a dear friend to me and for that I feel blessed. Sometimes, I think if I hadn't gotten sick we might have married.
    Nice guys might finish last, but they finish. That's the difference. One thing I do know about is being single and a few bad boys. Fortunately, I met a few of the nice guys, like your son, so I have a pretty solid belief that men can be and are wonderful.
    Now, I pray that I'll get another chance at one of those nice ones, like your son, only 25 or so years older.
    Thanks for sharing about your work along the way. When you are finished we can all say hey, I remember reading about her creating that, which will be cool.

  4. Hey CZ - just a heads up that I posted a link to your blog on a discussion about estranged adult children:


  5. Failing to Notice.
    Beautifully said!

    Not only do some fail to notice that which is dysfunctional and destructive in others we also fail to notice what is happening to us. Holding on to promises written in sand is I would guess the reason to fail to notice that which will never change in them but also failure to notice what will over time happen to us. Failing to notice is nothing short then a complete breakdown in what is really happening to both the "bad person" and us. How do I stop "failing to notice"? Wake up James and see what is really before you and not what I want to see...

  6. As always, your posts are filled with wry wit and wisdom -- you're such a WoW!

    Congrats on the new site -- I can hardly wait to see it. Now, if I could just get my act together to get mine going...

    I'm still thinking of employing your son's talents -- as soon as I get my act together...

    Did I mention, I'm avoiding looking at where my act isnot coming together?

    Haha -- I know. I know. I've just got to start noticing what I'm not noticing and I'll notice what needs to get done -- problem is -- I notice so much, I'm always trying to figure out what I'm noticing and never notice I'm not actually doign anything with my noticing...
    oh dear, I ramble.

    Hugs and congrats and you really are an amazing woman.


  7. The theme of my life right now is, Redesigning it by redefining it.

    Why do we let others define what is important to us? Why has wrong become Right and Right has become Wrong? Bad Guys are not good that's why they are called BAD. We let Hollywood determine what is sexy and what is not. After we discover being a NVamp's victim is not a sexy thing, then we can redefine sexy for our Self. Stable, Dependable, Reliable, Predictable, things that Hollywood says sexy is not is very sexy to me. Ladies who are into the Vamp movies is probably someone your son will want to stay away from.

  8. CZ hi!!

    Just took a peak at your website, which I'll never forget to do. I'm pleased to see you're 'threatening to build a website about narcissism, hoping to reach people before they get hurt'.

    You know... the guy who helped me to see the light and the truth about my relatioNship was someone who was NOT as close to me as my best friends and family. He was however close enough for me to take into consideration his warning. That warning came in a 'methaphorical / physical' or maybe even 'subconscious' way: He said to me: "Lise, as far as I can see now, the water is up to your nose, anymore of this bullshit and you're gonna drown". I then could see myself drown... and that's when I finally thought... 'this is not good'.

    Anyway, I think that if you want to prevent people from getting hurt by a N, you should also try to get their surroundings involved or as Patricia Evans would say the 'witnesses' or 'spellbreakers'. They can be very important in helping the targets of N's notice what the N is really about.

    I wonder how we could get people who view things from a 'more objective' side to speak up instead of thinking "ah well, it's none of my business anyway". You know what I mean?

    I'm sure there are loads of 'witness' people out there trying to comprehend the behaviour of a friend's partner or relative. Giving them the tools to give insight into the bad behaviour of the partner of their friend colleague or relative, could also be helpful to become the 'spellbreaker'.

    I know this sounds a bit weird or 'off topic' and I don't mean to say that 'targets of N's' should become reliant on other people's opinion about what's going on but for me it was a big 'eye-opening' event. The 'objectivity' from my friend's friend was a major step in the process of seeing my N for what he really was. I could no longer rationalise or analyse my horrible feelings about this relatioNship.

    Hope this was of help, it's a bit late here... so i'm not so together in my thoughts anymore.


  9. Hi LDW-

    Your comment was helpful. I love what your friend said to you. I have a friend in a relationship that concerns me and I've spoken up many times. Perhaps I'll try what your friend said on my friend. It explains perfectly what I see from the outside.

    When do you stop speaking up and do you ever when it's someone you care about? I mean at some point it just feels like it has to be her decision and no matter what I say or how many ways I say it, she has an excuse to explain things away, stays and settles for crumbs.

    All her past husbands have been physical abusers. And altho this guy hasn't hit her, it's HER history that makes me wonder if he's capable. I don't know HIM very well. I'm concerned for her but again I question when to stop with my own input even when asked for it.

    And also I wonder about staying away for my own sanity and safety.

    1. Hi Anon,

      It's very tricky speaking up because if we come on too strong, the person we are trying to help will back away. If we don't come on strong enough, our concern will be poo-poo'ed. We can say something however that might avoid putting them on the defensive (too much truth too soon only increases someone's denial because it scares them).

      We can ask them how they feel when such-and-such is said or done. We can refer to ourselves (always a safer bet than saying "you") in a sentence like, "That would make me feel really bad about myself." Or that would 'scare' me or 'hurt' my feelings.

      I have found that it is better to remain a friend to someone who's being abused, than offering ANY advice at all. So no advice...not ultimatums. It is quite taxing to continue supporting someone you know is being hurt but we mustn't take our frustration out on them. They need to make this decision on their own, otherwise they will blame us for having made the decision for them.

      I think that demonstrating real love to abused people allows them to discern the difference. some people really don't know what true intimacy and emotional closeness really is...so we can show them through our behavior and then they'll start thinking about the abusive relationship and get OUT. Anyway, that's my philosophy and my hope.



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