What is every first-time parent’s frantic wish? That their baby had come with a manual! As we grow up, their wish becomes our wish too. Please! Somebody tell me how to operate this machine, this mechanism that is myself! That need is exacerbated if you’re surrounded by narcissists.
Case in point: our emotions. They are intensely inconvenient to narcissists. So what do they say? “Take it easy.” “Relax.” “Let it go.” “Why do you overthink everything?”
So we tried. We really tried to be relaxed, easy going, simplistic. To run the Machine that is Us as they told us to run it.
And guess what!?! It backfired spectacularly. Trying to live like we are easy-going, relaxed and simplistic merely kicked the emotional can down the road. The further we kicked it, the more intense our distress became until one day…kablooey! It all blew up in our face and we were forced to face our true emotions…anyways.
So today’s article is about learning to run the “You Machine” properly. How to respect and honor the Unique You that God created so you can create a sort-of manual for running that machinery successfully. That’s not something we learned at our narcissist’s knee. They didn’t encourage us to discover ourselves. So now, at the ripe old age of forty, sixty, even eighty and ninety, we’re writing that manual so we don’t seize up or blow up.
Honor Your Complexity
Go ahead! Be complex! Think things through to the minutest detail. To the Nth degree. If that’s how you’re wired, then go ahead and do it.
That’s how I’m wired and always have been. Narcissism Meets Normalcy runs on my emotional mill that grinds very fine grist indeed. Many NmN articles have been quietly simmering on the back burner of my mind for ten, fifteen, twenty-five years but when they’re ready…they’re ready!
What if I were to sabotage that process and be “easy-going.” Firstly, I’d damage the machinery that is me! All the emotions and thoughts would fester, rot and ultimately explode. Secondly, Narcissism Meets Normalcy wouldn’t exist.
So, go ahead. Be complex! Be complicated! Be not easy-going! Don’t try to be “relaxed” just because it makes someone else’s world (particularly an abuser) more convenient. Think, feel and speak as is authentic to you.
Honor Your Hang-Ups
There comes a point in life when you throw up your hands and say, “Screw it! I’m always going to be XY way. I may not like it, but looks like I’m stuck with it.” Now is the time to write the pages of your personal manual so you know thrive around your hang-ups.
For me, my hang-ups are my OCD and what I call “blocks.” In June of 2018, I wrote about this in an article titled My Mildly OCD Life.
Walking into the kitchen I suddenly froze. I could not start cooking. Then I realized the problem: I wasn’t following my pattern. I’d ignored the “Manual” that tells me how to run my life in a way that’s comfortable for me. And the manual says, “Clear the decks before starting another meal.” Before I could start chopping or frying, I had to run a dishpan of hot soapy water. Until I had my hot soapy dishpan, cooking was impossible. I was frozen. Paralyzed.
Much as I hate feeling this way, and am quite embarrassed to admit it, learning to humor and workaround my OCD/blocks is part of my personal Manual. This goes beyond and is exacerbated by my ongoing battle with hypothyroidism and insulin resistance. Low energy meets blocks that say, “I can’t. I simply canNOT do _____________.” Fill-in-the-blank.
A few years ago, vacuuming was a block. But I got over it (much to my husband’s chagrin. He hates the sound of a vacuum cleaner.)
Then washing dishes was a block, until I discovered the magic of DishWands. Integrating them into my Manual for dishwashing was, as funny as it may sound, utterly life-changing.
Then laundry became a block. Now it’s my superpower. 😉
But the block that shows no sign of being tricked or cajoled is always and ever cooking. Which is strange, because more than anything else, I wanted my own kitchen. But having gotten it, I just didn’t want to cook which is weird because I’m a foodie and would rather read and write about food than anything else. I just don’t want to be physically involved with making food. It’s messy. Your hands get yucky. And it requires that bugaboo skill I don’t possess: manual dexterity.
So I set out to conquer that particularly block. I tempted myself by loading the kitchen with everything from miso to anchovies, but I didn’t want to actually use them. Then I became a cottage food producer, figuring that baking bread for a living would destroy my block about baking bread. It didn’t work. It’s a block I just have to live with. Ruth Reichl may find cooking to be utterly relaxing and a form of meditation, but I’d rather clean the house from stem to stern than cook an egg. )But when I finally force myself to do it, it will be a very carefully cooked egg indeed.)
There was one, and only one “kitchen hack” I added to my Manual that kind-a, sort-a helped. I found if I can pique my creativity by constantly making new recipes, that challenge might just trick me into actually enjoying cooking. Sometimes the hack works; sometimes it doesn’t. My husband lets out a loud and dramatic groan whenever I announce, “We’re having something new tonight.) But it’s important to file my “kitchen hack” in the Manual for those days when the block is insurmountable and even scrambled eggs seem daunting. (Try Julia Child’s Cordon Bleu method in My Life in France. It will change your approach to eggs forever.)
So what hacks do you need to file in your Manual? Perhaps it’s only making the same ten dishes on rotation. Perhaps it’s never making the same dish twice. Maybe it’s enrolling in a service like Freshly so your mise en place (that hated prepping part of cooking) arrives already washed, chopped and measured. Whatever works for you, file it away in the manual for those days when your personal Block rears its ugly head.
Honor Your Rhythms
Any good musician will tell you that the secret is in the rhythm. That the rests are almost more important than the notes. Anyone with Aspergers will tell you that the rhythm or pattern of their day must be exactly the same every day or their day may be ruined. If Sheldon Cooper doesn’t get to watch Dr. Who at exactly 6:30 a.m. on BBC America on Saturday morning, his day falls in ashes around his ears.
We’re all a little bit like that. So honor it! That’s part of the Manual too.
For many people, it’s that perfect cup of coffee made exactly the way they like best at exactly the right time. If any part of that goes wrong, the whole day is tainted.
For me, it’s my morning shower. I just don’t feel right unless I have it. Vulnerable! I feel vulnerable and just bleeeehhhh until I’m showered and dressed. Best case scenario, I also get my bagel with warm cream cheese and smoked fish, but I won’t be adamant on that point.
Perhaps you have specific times when your energy is high (after sundown) or your energy tanks (afternoons.) Jot those down in the Manual too. Play to your inborn rhythms and rests instead of constantly fighting them. For me, that means being nocturnal. Like a hedgehog.
Whatever little thing makes for a good day for you, jot it down in the Manual.
Honor the Manual
No one really talks about creating a “Manual” for running the mechanism that is you. They’re quick to tell you how to change, how to ignore who you truly are. But adults, like babies, need to have manuals. And since we weren’t born with one, I suggest we write one for ourselves. Not just write it either; honor it and follow it no matter what anybody says about it.
It’s really the only way to keep the Machine that is Us running smoothly. Ignore the manual at your peril! You may seize up or, or, or explode!