You and I didn’t learn this at our parent’s knee unlike other children. Why? Because our parent(s) suffered from a personality disorder. What we did learn from their inablity to love us unconditionally was perfectionism and self-loathing. As I said in the previous article, they used our very humanity against us as an excuse, a reason for their refusal or inability to love us, warts and all. (See previous article.)
Learning to embrace, enjoy and wink at our own humanity will take us a long way towards healing. Let’s explore this together, shall we?
Enough is Enough!
Have you ever met someone who said things like, “Enough is enough!” or “That’s it. I’m done!” I always envied those people. They seemed to have an innate sense for what was okay and what wasn’t. What was normal and what was ridiculous. What was reasonable and what was egregious. Cross their well-defined boundary and they threw up their hands and walked away, as well they should!
I don’t have a line. Anywhere.
I never did.
I still don’t.
To be human is to have a line drawn in granite.
Underneath the line, written in letters of fire it says,
“Thou shalt not cross.”
If someone is screaming in your face, behavior which we never deserve, being human means stepping away from the situation to let them calm down before engaging in dialogue.
If someone expects you to wait on them hand-and-foot, being human means politely declining to “fetch the ketchup” because they’re perfectly capable of doing it themselves. This reminds me of the Frasier episode where Marty Crane and his sons, Frasier and Niles, are eating out at (gasp!) a steakhouse together. (How pedestrian! How plebeian! I jest of course.)
Waitress: Hi, can I get you guys something from the bar?
Frasier: [weary] Oh dear God, yes.
Niles: I’ll have a Stoli Gibson on the rocks, with three pearl onions.
Frasier: [firmly] If you bring him two, if you bring him four – he’ll send it back.
Waitress: And for you?
Frasier: The same.
That’s where a line needs to be drawn. So ya got four pearl onions! Shut up, si’down and deal with it! Just a humorous example of where the Line of Normalcy needs to be deployed.
If you’re so tired you’re silently weeping into the dishpan (been there too many times to count, damn hypothyroid!), being human means hanging up your sponge and going to bed. (Anyone who judges you badly for taking care of yourself is the South end of a horse heading North.)
If you’re cranky and irritable and PMSing, being human means taking a nice hot bath, tucking yourself into bed with chocolate ice cream and watching Comedy Central, but, and here’s the trick, not feeling guilty about it!
Yeah. I know. A tall order!
The Line of Normalcy
But where do you draw the line? Where is “normal”? We should’ve learned it at our parent’s knee, but we didn’t.
When I was a little girl, my dad was an usher in church. I would help him clean up the pews after the church service, straightening the hymnals and gathering loose bulletins. “Go over there,” Dad said, “and brush that shredded paper off the pew.” Obediently, I did as I was told. But when I arrived at the offending pew, I discovered it wasn’t shredded paper. It was skin. Someone had shed loads of dry, papery skin.
I was faced with a dilemma. Touching someone else’s dead skin was gross and unhygienic. On the other hand, if I didn’t obey Daddy to the letter, he might get mad and I’d definitely be punished for my disobedience. I was terrified of his temper. Grossness was less horrible than angering Dad so I brushed all the dead skin off the pew with my hand. Later I told my parents and they were horrified. “Why didn’t you say something!?” they queried. “We’d never have told you to touch skin! We thought it was just paper.”
That’s a perfect example of the absence of a Line of Normalcy. My childish brain knew it was dangerous to draw a line, to set a boundary, to think for myself. Grooming had taught me that.
Narcissistic families overtly and consciously
teach us never, ever, ever to set boundaries.
It’s not Hedonism. It’s Humanity.
When I finally, inexplicably and miraculously escaped my narcissist in 2011, life was so wonderful, I felt downright hedonistic. I began calling myself a hedonist because there was so much pleasure in my life, I felt…guilty. (Of course!)
With no one to answer to and no one looking over my shoulder, life became a feast, a joyful journey, an experience, a revel in creativity, an exploration of epicurean delights. I enjoyed things that now I smile to think I considered “hedonistic” treats when, really, they were my birthright all along. Hot showers every morning. Staying up late. Cooking whatever I wanted to cook. Coffee and lox every morning. Basic things that honored my needs, my unique humanity…long denied.
When I was tired, I took a nap.
When I was cranky, I expressed it.
When I was weepy, I cried.
When I felt creative, I indulged it.
When I saw something I wanted, I bought it.
I didn’t have to smile and pretend to be happy all the time. Didn’t have to live according to someone else’s timetable. Didn’t have to answer to anyone else for anything. It was hardcore authenticity.
But beware! As soon as someone else enters your life, you will automatically be triggered. You’ll automatically start apologizing for taking showers. Apologizing for being human. Trying to drive yourself unmercifully again. Feeling guilty for doing nice things for yourself. Demanding that you be happy all the time. Waiting on them hand and foot.
It does not matter who that person is. Humans are our trigger. Enter any human and we will treat them as though they are our narcissists reincarnated…demanding, shaming, denigrating.
My point is this: Let others be responsible for themselves. If they want the ketchup, let them get up and get it for themselves.
We’re not slaves. We’re not indentured servants. We’re very, very nice people who get tired, get sore, get crabby, get overwhelmed and that’s okay!!
Because we’re human. Delightfully human. So let’s stop driving ourselves unmercifully and treat ourselves the way we would wish to be treated. It’s called the Golden Rule and it applies to us too!
Did you like what you read? Click here to learn more!