With Thanksgiving bearing down on us in just twenty (and counting!) days, I’m in a mood to get a head start on gratitude. Unfortunately, the topic has gotten short shrift in this blog over the past few years. Originally, I’d intended to do a yearly 5 Reasons I’m Grateful for Narcissists article at Thanksgivingtime but, well, somehow that only happened in 2017.
Just as it can be easy to “forget” all the small abuses that combine together to form the monster of Narcissistic Abuse, it can also be easy to forget our blessings too.
Now, as you already know, I’m a big fan of Excel (or Open Office) spreadsheets. Nine months after NmN was launched, I wrote about spreadsheets in An Exercise in Grieving and Self-Empathy:
When denial threatens to drown me and I’ve forgotten more abuses than I can remember,
my “Timeline of Abuse” spreadsheet saves the day.
There’s a column for the year the abuse occurred.
There’s a column with a short summary and a column with the full explanation.
Then there’s a column titled “Category.”
I even did some Pivot Tables to give me a snapshot view
from the 10,000 feet perspective when denial drowns me
and I need a quick reminder that all was NOT well in the Kingdom.
But it cuts the other way too. As Donald Pleasance mused in The Barchester Chronicles, “Oh yes, we forget the pain,” but we also forget the pleasure too. That’s why I’m on a quest to remember as many long-forgotten happy events from my own life. As I do, my gratitude is booming and, despite the many challenges and sadnesses caused by narcissism, I’ve recently discovered that in the words of Clarence the Grounded Angel, “You see, George, you’ve really had a wonderful life.
I’ve had a wonderful life too and I bet you have also if you “count your blessings,” narcissistic abuse aside, of course.
Just as I found it very beneficial to have a “Timeline of Abuse” spreadsheet, I also found my “Nostalgia” spreadsheet to be a wonderful exercise in gratitude. Oh yes, here we go again with the Middle-Aged thing. But seriously, if we want to follow Thoreau’s advice and “suck out all the marrow of life” then we need to appreciate the past as much as we seek out pleasure now and make memories in the future.
That was the mistake I was making. In my anger at the narcissists for taking away my freedom, I’d brushed what I was allowed to do under the carpet. I’d forgotten. With forgetfulness, I lost my gratitude. Oh, don’t get me wrong! There was a lot of lemonade…but spaced out so far that the special times were easily forgotten. The lemons got the upper hand in my memory and the lemonade was somewhat forgotten. Yes, I could’ve enjoyed life much more if I’d had freedom in my twenties but in this phase of recovery, I’m looking for all the good, jogging all the pleasant memories and enjoying them again in retrospect.
There’s something about being nearly forty (there it is again!) that makes the years telescope into each other. I remember…I remember.
I remembering seeing Peter Ostroushko in concert…but I’m danged if I can remember where or when. Also James Galway. Itzhak Perlman. Bobby McFerrin. I’ve been in the same room with two Stradivarius violins. Corresponded with Franz Mohr of Steinway and Sons who traveled with all of the finest pianists of the 20th century. And my last violin teacher, Margarita Lekhter, was the wife of the Minnesota Orchestra assistant concertmaster and the 3rd cousin of Russian violinist, David Oistrakh. It was she who showed me how put all my passion into the violin and then, and only then, will it sing.
And at this point, I’m just name dropping. My point is, I’d forgotten most of this until I sat down and forced myself to remember.
I’d been focusing on everything I wasn’t allowed to do. All the places I wasn’t allowed to drive. All the restaurants I didn’t try. All the art museums my family avoided because of nudity in art, tsk, tsk. All the movies we didn’t see and all the venues in the Twin Cities that we avoided on religious grounds or just never got around to exploring. Would you believe I’ve never been to the Mall of America!?!
In my anger at the narcissists, I’d forgotten. Forgotten to be grateful to them. They sacrificed to afford tickets in the nosebleed section of Orchestra Hall so their six-year old would be exposed to classical music or as my narcissistic grandmother sneered, “that long-haired music.” I am who they raised me, the Project, to be. It was their efforts to expose me to great books (no TV in our house!) that taught me how to write today and the books themselves that inspire the quotes I so liberally sprinkle in my articles. They exposed me to great concerts, historical monuments, museums, cultural events that made me who I am today. In writing NmN, I’m merely following my mother’s advice, “Never keep abuse to yourself. Always tell someone.”
But I didn’t realize any of this until I settled down to work on my Nostalgia spreadsheet. That’s when I realized: “You see, George, you’ve really have had a wonderful life.” That’s when gratitude began to swell.
My challenge to you this Thanksgiving is to say, “Oh, damn narcissistic abuse,” and look for your blessings instead for a change. And I mean, get detailed! Search your memory. Go through those boxes of unorganized, unlabeled photographs. Dig out your High School yearbooks. Start an alumni group on Facebook. Google “vintage toys 19**.” Remember, remember, remember. Make a list and check it twice.
Remember your most memorable meals. The revelation that there are other cheeses in the world beyond just colby and Velveeta. Remember the first time you tasted real, proper Asian food or Italian food or French food. Your first bottle of good wine that “lit the flame” of being a wannabe sommelier. Remember every concert, every play, every vacation, every football game, every bonfire, every fish caught. (I’m really trying here. Sports just aren’t my thing.)
The time you made a baby in a shopping cart laugh by making faces when their mother wasn’t looking. (Yes, I do that.) A lost puppy you returned to their sobbing owner. (A kind lady caught Delly and Cleo for us in 2013 when they got loose!) A random act of kindness from a stranger. Smiles shared. Mutual laughter. GoFundMes that you gave too or benefited from (Thank you!). Coins slipped into the Salvation Army buckets at Christmas. A gift you received or gave that was so spot-on you never forgot it. Anything, Everything.
Throw it all in the hopper and I think you’ll find yourself smiling in the mirror at your reflection and whispering, “You see, George, you’ve really have had a wonderful life!”
Happy (Early) Thanksgiving to you and yours from Michael and me! I’m always grateful you take the time to read NmN!
Thanks for reading! If you’d like to see what else I’ve been writing lately, please visit my newly updated website: www.lenorathompsonwriter.com