Do you have a “junk drawer”? Oh, come now. Be honest! We all have a junk drawer full of bits and bobs and bric-à-brac. Erma Bombeck wrote eloquently about hers. Mine is full of tiny spice bottles and lids that don’t match and half-used bottles of food coloring (used primary for dying eggs and dogs, not necessarily in that order).
This is the “junk drawer” of Narcissism Meets Normalcy articles. It hasn’t got a main topic or perhaps more accurately, there are an embarrassment of topics because this ol’ brain of mine refuses to be corralled to just one topic today. I feel just like Wile Etherbert Coyote pictured above!
Two years ago, I wrote Dreams During Abuse, Dreams In Recovery. It was about how our nighttime dreams pre-recovery and in-recovery are so very different, reflecting where we’re at emotionally.
Maybe it was the Nyquil but I had a honey of a dream last night. Like most of my in-recovery dreams, I’m the one doing the talking and my narcissists are actually listening, fancy that.
In the dream, they’d hidden a letter in the bottom drawer of my chest-of-drawers and refused to let me read it nor would they tell me anything about it. (Rather like how secretively they treated my paternal grandmothers letters.) The letter was, obviously, life-changing for them. They were talking, talking, talking to each other while keeping me in the dark.
In my dream, it was the final straw. I began packing clothes and knick-knacks. My plan was to sleep in my car that night and then find an apartment and job the next day. All the time I was packing, in my dream, I was telling my mother that “Obviously, I’m not a part of this family. You won’t let me read the letter. You won’t tell me anything.” She listened and said nothing. Not even when I asked her if she wanted to have a child (me) at all or if it was just something she did to make Dad happy.
Then I woke up and remembered: our lives changed overnight in 1995 and to this day, no one in the family has paid me the courtesy of telling me why or what it was all about. That was when it all began: the PTSD, the OCD. Which leads me to …
“Just Right” OCD
You can’t buckle down to work unless everything feels “just right.”
Does that sound familiar? You have to feel right before you can concentrate and focus. Am I right or am I right?
What I didn’t know (until yesterday) was it has a name: “Just Right” OCD.
Now my husband is not a fan of labels. I like labels; he doesn’t. But when I told him, “Honey, I think I have ‘Just Right’ OCD” he looked up and said, “Yeah, that sounds about right.”
I wasn’t always this way. It all started in 1995. OCD gave me peace. Without it, I’d have had a breakdown as I watched in trauma as my family, inexplicably, nearly imploded. Dermatillomania and trichotillomania gave me a way to “cleanse” my life and my parents a reason to yell at me.
But now that you mention it, for the past decade or so I’ve struggled with a new type of OCD. “Just Right” OCD goads me into tidying the entire house before I can tackle the dirty dishes. It must be done in that order. Don’t know why; just do. Now that you mention it, back in my office days, everything had to be just right before I could concentrate on my work too.
Does it help to have a name, a label for it? Meh, kinda’ sorta’. It explains it but it doesn’t cure it. Is there a cure? OCD doesn’t run in my family: it romps!
Perhaps it was the hours I spent retouching a precious last photo taken of an aged mother and her daughter that triggered the thought of “mother love.” The mother and daughter in the photo are holding hands so fiercely, their knuckles are white. It’s a grip that says, “Nothing can kill mother love. Not even the grave.”
That’s why I don’t understand how my mother could give me up, seemingly, so easily. My “No Contact” letter didn’t slam the door on communication entirely. In fact, it left a huge crack open: write if you want to know why I’m going NC. But it was fourteen months, fourteen months, before Mom bothered to write casually and ask “why.”
I was raised to be her friend. I was her only friend and, more and more I realize, she used her influence to be my only friend. I was her “adored” daughter. Her only child. Didn’t that count for anything!?
We did everything together. I told her everything. Heck, she trained me to. She was my interrogator growing up and, even when I reached so-called adulthood, there was always an inherent imbalance in the relationship: she was still the authority figure. We were never equals.
Nevertheless, what happened to mother/daughter love? Am I so easily given up? It shocks me considering how passionately she fought me moving out with every means at her disposal, including shame and tears. Did she even miss me!?
What happens to mother/daughter love? Where does it go so wrong? I write every article in Narcissism Meets Normalcy for my mother. Hoping against hope that she’ll “get it” someday, somehow.
She must know I’m not wrong. I wasn’t wrong about our codependency and I’m not wrong about narcissism. So why attack me? Why!?
Or did I never really know her at all? How much was she the victim and how much was she the perpetrator? Will I ever know!?
It’s His House Too
When I look around my home, I see a dichotomy. My side of each room is fairly tidy. Michael’s side of each room is…not so much! It makes my “Just Right” OCD kick like a mule.
My mother’s house is not like that. My grandmother’s house was not like that. You could eat off their garden trowel. So what is so wrong with me as a homemaker!?
Then I remember: in their homes, there was little evidence that their husband lived there at all! In fact, there wasn’t much evidence that living actually went on in the Living Room or, for that matter, anywhere else in their houses.
Their Living Rooms were more like a Victorian parlor: keep it nice for “company.” There were no pockets of creativity, no ongoing projects, no collections, no piles of books-to-be-read or dog-eared journals stretching back decades. Projects, especially anything masculine, was banished to the hot attic, the damp basement, the cold garage or had to be cleared away before suppertime.
Dad had one magazine rack next to this chair. Grandpa had a TV room…but not even that reflected who he was nor what he liked. There wasn’t much evidence that they actually lived in the house they worked so hard to pay for.
That seems wrong to me.
When I moved out, I was determined that creativity would have a place in my new home. One table was just for creativity. Bits and pieces, art stuff, the sewing machine, potted plants. The fiddle hung on the wall. The “mess” was never cleared away. You could sit down and let the creative juices flow at any time. That was by design.
That went double for Michael. The garage, one bedroom, the dining room table and part of the bookshelves of my townhome were all devoted to his all-encompassing hobbies after we got married. Same goes when we moved here.
I want him to be comfortable. I don’t want his creative juices to be stymied. It’s obvious he lives here. His personality and creativity and the paraphernalia of his hobbies are all over the place. You’ve heard of a “Personal Shopper”? Michael has a “Personal Dumpster Diver.” Not kidding! Lovely man who brings Michael all kinds of half-broken electronics that thrill Michael to bits and pieces…but I want to throttle the P.D.D. sometimes!
We actually live in our Living Room. In fact, we do an awful lot of living there. The cats and dogs do their living there too! There’s evidence of it. If that offends you, as they say in Klingon, ponfo miran.
And with that, the junk drawer of my mind is slamming shut. Make that squeaking shut; it sticks something awful.
Thanks for reading. Have a good week!