(Have you read Part 1 yet? Click here…or what follows won’t have any context.)
That is the very antithesis of how narcissists live and how they taught us, influenced us and forced us to live. They performed; they didn’t really live. So we learned to perform, not really live. We work, raise children, clean, cook, mow, trim, garden to look right to others. To prove “I’m okay! See!?! Everything is perfect. I deserve to be alive. I’m a worthwhile human being. See!? I’m proving it.”
I’m convinced that because narcissists aren’t happy and not really live-live-living themselves, they take steps to make sure we don’t either. To that point, many ACONs (Adult Children of Narcissists) have told me that smiling and especially laughing was forbidden, punished and mocked in their homes. My husband recalls how his family took their meals together in absolutely silence (or else!) and during family TV time laughter was verboden. Imagine watching The Carol Burnett Show in silence!?! That is seriously f*cked up! (And a good way to blow a blood vessel. Imagine watching Tim Conway and not being allowed laugh!?! That must be how Harvey Korman felt!)
In the Sound of Music, the Baroness says, “Oh, I do like it here, Georg. It’s so lovely and peaceful. How can you leave it so often?”
Captain von Trapp responds: “Oh, pretending to be madly active, I suppose. Activity suggests a life filled with purpose.”
Somewhere along the line, perhaps from our busy-little-bee-full-of-stings (All Above Eve; Bette Davis) narcissists, you and I got the idea that a truly adult life is one that is stressful, busy, active, down-to-Earth, rather dreadful and extremely short of free time and enjoyment. Did you get that idea from them too? Like if you aren’t afraid of everything and fully briefed on every tragedy worldwide brought to us courtesy of the News at 6 pm, 9 pm and 10 pm, you’re not really fully adult.
This thinking is ingrained in our society. Assumed. A given. TV advertisements assume we are all so busy and stressed out. Magazines are full of time-saving, labor-saving ideas, assuming we’re short on time and energy.
Well, of course, we all have responsibilities. Making a living. Childcare. Cooking. Laundry. Home upkeep. Paying the bills. Doing the fakakta taxes. Yard work. Car maintenance. Washing the dog (although dogs would prefer that we simply forgot to wash them ever again!)
But a lot of what we do is a choice. We have more choices in life than we realize. Six years ago, my husband was the impetus behind us leaving expensive Minneapolis to live The Simple (Cheap) Life. Very Thoreauesque. Very untightened up. My mind still hasn’t caught up to that. I’m still part City Girl, part Narcissist’s Daughter…thinking I must be busy, busy, busy. If I’m not busy, busy, busy, I must be terribly neglecting something. I’m just not sure what essential bit of adulthood I’m so dreadfully neglecting to accomplish!
In reality, it actually doesn’t take all that much Time or Energy to keep up with everything if you keep it simple. The harder you work, the harder it is to keep up with everything. The more you relax, the more easily the work will get done. (Really. I’ve tried it!) When you jettison all the toxic people, activities and physical possessions that don’t bring you joy, it leaves space for the things that really enrich your life.
Even as I try to learn how to “wink” at life, I’m also trying to learn how to “wink” at death too. It’s going to come sometime. No matter how the medical community tries to shame us for our own health problems, death is not our fault, even if we did eat that extra rasher of bacon at breakfast on the morning of Tuesday, February 6th, 1962. Death is not failing. It is the natural exit from a life where, to quote C. S. Lewis, there is an “inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much…it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience…” “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
How do you live life with whimsy, humor and twinkle? Well, when I received a bill for $250 for propane I never ordered and never received, I simply stayed calm and called the company to tell them, “Sorry, you billed the wrong Thompsons.” Problem solved with cordiality on both sides. A narcissist would’ve taken it damn seriously, blown their gasket and read the company the riot act elaborating on the company’s slipshod billing and the depraved state of the world in general.
Apart from the obvious organic ways to enjoy all the pleasures integral to life — flowers, pets, art, music, butterflies, rainbows, stars, good food, lovely fragrances, tickling the dogs’ toes while they sleep — winking at life is small acts of kindness, chuckling at others foibles and letting a$$hole$ be a$$hole$ if that’s what floats their boat. It’s about boundaries and seeing the ridiculousness in situations and people. Not taking it so damn seriously.
A narcissist has to save the world and correct everyone’s behavior. It buoy’s their glass egos. We don’t need that boost.
It’s letting the lady with just one bottle of laundry detergent go ahead of you at the checkout counter. She may look like a cranky prune, but that one act of kindness will melt her heart and she’ll thank you profusely, calling you “Dear.” You made her day and she made yours.
It’s winking, waving and making funny faces at babies in grocery store carts behind their mother’s backs and then acting like nothing happened when she turns around wondering why her baby is laughing that wonderful, guttural baby laugh.
It’s letting the squirrels eat out of the birdfeeder (hey! they’re hungry too.)
I once asked my mother if she thought God had a sense of humor. “Of course!” she responded, “just look at babies, ostriches and monkeys. They’re hilarious.” It was Mom who taught me about living with whimsy. She never failed to notice the beauty and humor around her without any meanness. “Look, Lenora,” she’d whisper at the mall. “That kid’s hair is standing straight up from the static electricity from their stocking cap. Isn’t it hilarious!?”
It takes extraordinary courage and faith to live lightly, with humor. Which is, maybe, why narcissists can’t seem to manage it. Narcissists are bullies and bullies are cowards. Life is not for the cowardly. It takes tremendous courage to draw a boundary and tell our children, “Time for you to fly. I’ve done my best in raising you. You know what’s right and you know what’s wrong. If you choose to be a good person or an a$$hole is entirely up to you. Either way, I’ll always love you, but it’s time for you to be responsible for yourself.” It takes real gonads to live life…and even more courage to live it happily. Funny, isn’t it.
Do you want to be happy? Then don’t take life so damn seriously. Take yourself, your fellow man and life in general with a huge grain of salt, a chuckle, a wink and a twinkle in your eye. And remember: most of the things we worry about, will never happen and things have a way of working themselves out.