Every so often, Michael and I get on this massive time travel kick. Doctor Who plays 24/7 at our house. For those of you who aren’t addicted to the BBC, Doctor Who is a brilliant geeky show where the Time Lord known as Doctor Who, preferably played by the frenetically hilarious David Tennant, travels in time and space, often fixing The Past to protect The Future of the human race.
That got me thinking about how awesome it would be to borrow Doctor Who’s big blue Tardis-time-machine-timey-wimey-thingy to fly backwards in time and eradicate narcissism from our family timelines and our own lives. It’s like when Leonard on TBBT said, “I’m guessing someone went back in time, stepped on a bug and changed the course of human events. ”
What if the bug we could step on was called “narcissism”!?
The truth is, we probably don’t even know when narcissism entered our personal timelines. I always blamed my Narcissistic Granny but then again, someone made her who she is. I know Great-Grandma had little empathy for Grandma and, at least once, knowingly sent Grandma back into an abusive situation from which she’d previously fled.
But then again, Great-Grandma was horsewhipped and propositioned by her own father (Good ol’ days, my ass!) and so pinpointing the advent of narcissism is hopeless. Without a Tardis, anyways.
Still I want to know what would’ve happened if my mother’s life, and thus mine, had never been touched by narcissism?
Think back to the first known narcissist in your ancestors? Who was it? A parent? Grandparent? Great-grandparent?
Cue tinkling dream sequence chimes…
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, a baby girl was born to a woman who was not a narcissist. That baby would become my mother. While she learned her A-B-Cs, she also learned to be strong. She learned to be an independent, self-sufficient individual. She had good boundaries and defended them. She learned how to be okay alone and okay in a crowd.
(You realize, of course, this story is the opposite of reality. But it could be true, it could, if narcissism were removed from the equation!)
One evening, she accompanied a friend to a nightclub. There she met a young man who asked her to dance. After dancing, they sat down in a booth to talk. He did everything but cry on her shoulder. He was so depressed, so victim-playing. It rubbed her wrong. She didn’t like his woe-is-me act and demurred when he asked for her phone number.
She didn’t know it then, but she’d dodged a major bullet. By not falling for his poor-me act, she’d avoided years and years of being the object of his blackout rages, his control, his isolation. She couldn’t have know that, if she’d fallen for him, he would’ve traumatized her to the point of agoraphobia.
Most of all, she couldn’t have known that if she’d chosen Mr. Sadness to be her husband and the father of her child, she would’ve lost her only child.
To Be Continued…
You’d think that rewriting a timeline like this would be an exercise in regret or sadness. But I find it strangely comforting and very cheerful. It reassures us that things could’ve been different. It’s not us. We’re not the problem.
We were simply born to dysfunctional people in a dysfunctional family tree, in my case, Mr. Sadness was my father. But it didn’t have to be this way. Our forefathers and foremothers could’ve made better life choices and chosen better spouses if the bug of narcissism had been stomped out generations ago.
Continuing the rewrite of history…
The Friday after meeting Mr. Pitiful, she met Mr. Right. A nice, normal man who didn’t go off on weird tangents, didn’t rage and traumatize her. He might sound boring, but Nice Men are anything but boring!
Together they had a little girl who they raised in a nice, normal way. She learned that she was just like everybody else. She learned that God loved her and forgave her when she was willfully naughty. She didn’t loathe herself, blame herself and sob silently into her pillow at night.
She had friends at school and extracurricular activities. Her parents realized that school wasn’t merely about grades and Honor Rolls but about learning about human nature. Honing your powers of friendship, your relationship skills and learning about the opposite sex. Experiencing the arts and music as well as subjects like math and grammar.
They realized that, though school life seems silly when we look back on it, it’s just as important to children as adult life is to adults. So they made sure she wore the same type of clothes and hairstyles as her friends. They paid for her to have a class ring and retouched professional pictures for her Senior year. They watched with pride as she walked down that aisle to the strains of Pomp and Circumstance with her Senior class and graduated with them.
She grew up, moved out and had a nice life.
I’ve been wanting to write that last paragraph for a very long time. Narcissists don’t recognize their children’s social lives as important. Narcissists consider children silly and stupid, so by extension, their friends and interests and hobbies are unimportant also. They position their children to be weird and bullied. They use “lack of funds” as an excuse but that’s not true. It was purposeful.
Perhaps this is partly why they tend to sabotage your Senior Year of High School. My non-imaginary parents took me out of school after 10th grade and isolated me for the last two years of High School…and even longer. I was never allowed any extracurriculars after they made me quit Band in 6th grade. Late, my parents told me that class rings were silly and quickly cast aside in adulthood. They refused to buy me one although they could’ve easily afforded it. I wanted one so much and I still regret that loss just as I regret the loss of playing the flute, having proper Senior Pictures and being able to graduate with the classmates I’d known since 1st grade. I’ll never get those things back. My homeschool Commencement was a nightmare!
My husband experienced much the same thing. His parents always isolated him. He was friendless and horribly bullied at school after his father’s crime hit the newspaper headlines. They refused him professional Senior pictures, snapping away at him with the family camera instead. School and home were so horrific for him, he chose to graduate early and was already in Basic Training at Fort Benning when the rest of his graduating class was attending their Commencement Exercises and throwing their be-tassled Oxford caps high in the air.
Narcissism robbed us of normalcy…but gave this blog a great title! 😉
Narcissism is like an alien bug that infects time and space. The comforting thing is that it’s not in our DNA. I don’t care what anyone says: narcissism is a moment-by-moment choice.
Sometimes it’s fun to jump in the Tardis and fly backwards in time to realize that we were never the problem. Narcissism was. Squish that bug and then stand back and watch how nicely, how pleasantly, how normally our timeline could’ve unfolded before us.
It’s not too late! You can always rescue your life. There is always hope.