Not A Leg to Stand On June 15, 2013Posted by alwaysjan in Health, Personal.
Tags: Health, Knee Pain, Strawberry Festival, Torn Meniscus, Total Knee Replacement
I’ve gone and done it again.
When I last wrote about my knee in 28 Days Later, I was four weeks out from Total Knee Replacement (TKR). I’m pleased to say that at six weeks, I no longer wanted to die. And just as my doctor had predicted, by the time I hit that 12-week mark, I was in love with him.
I went back to school after 10 weeks, as I’d exhausted my sick leave and was on Extended Medical Leave (1/2 pay). I was a little bit nervous about my ability to navigate the stairs, but ultimately I did just fine. And it took me all of 10 minutes to regain control of my classroom after being out for so long. It was all good. Too good?
Okay, my right knee now makes a THUNKing sound (which is good way to teach about onomatopoeia?). I asked my doctor about this and he said, “Well, your knee is all titanium and plastic, so what do you expect?” It’s not like it was in Silent Running mode before. Point well taken.
I was floating up and down the stairs at school. Heaven! Then my LEFT knee began acting up. A shot of Cortisone did the trick. My husband had tickets to go to The Strawberry Festival in Yosemite to meet up with his best friend from kindergarten, Anne. I love Anne because she remembers more about my husband’s childhood than he does. Approximately 20 some odd people were to converge at Camp Calamity. Oh, how aptly named.
Neither my husband or I had ever been to Yosemite. Finally, we were going. Oh what fun we would have.
The first night was great. The camp was set up so that there was a long table for all of us to gather. The women’s restroom wasn’t too far. Who could ask for anything more? Okay, the ground was uneven, but our hosts had laid out artificial turf and rugs so that it was the ultimate outdoor space. They had this down as they’d been doing this for 31 years. I was in awe of just how organized they were. We slept the first night on an air mattress. Oh, what a difference it made. This was going to be fun. (I’d never uttered the words “camping” and “fun” in the same sentence before.)
The second day we got in Anne’s car and she drove us to Hetch Hetchy. We walked down the road and across the dam and through the tunnel. I couldn’t believe how easily I could walk. I hadn’t walked this far in years and kept waiting to be in pain – but I was fine.
When we got back to Camp Calamity we dined and then as the sun began to set, we set off to the Music Meadow. The paths are traced with white chalk, so it’s easier to walk. We hadn’t gone far when I stepped off the path. My left knee twisted as I slid into a hole. I would have fallen to the ground if the two guys walking next to me had not grabbed me. The pain was exquisite. So I was carried me back to Camp Calamity. I was laid out on a chaise lounge and someone made me a wicked Margarita. My husband, Richard, soldiered on to the Music Meadow. When he returned, I was immobilized and had to be carried to the tent. Not a good sign.
I’ll cut to the chase. We drove back to Los Angeles the next morning as I had to have people carry me to the restroom. Talk about humility. I was wheeled into the hospital ER where it was determined that I had no broken bones. My entire leg was encased in a knee immobilizer and I was sent home with pain meds.
The hardest thing was writing to my students’ parents that I’d injured my OTHER knee. I was out for four days while awaiting the results of an MRI. Meanwhile, our collection of crutches was ever expanding.
The MRI showed a torn meniscus, a Baker’s cyst, and some arthritis, but I was given the okay to go back to school. I managed for two days and then everything went south. By the last day of school when I had to clean out my classroom, I was limping and in excruciating pain.
I finally met with my doctor. I now have arthroscopic surgery scheduled, but he couldn’t fit me in before my trip to the UK, which was to be my reward for having the TKR. I had this same surgery on my right knee in 2006 which compared to the TKR was a piece of cake.
So I’m hobbling. I have been ordered NOT to pivot. I ice my knee three times a day and try to keep it elevated. This was not the summer vacation I envisioned. I’ve warned my Lesley/s in the UK that I might not be up to doing the Highland Fling. I might have to just be put in a wheelbarrow and taken to the local pub?
So if my readers wonder why I’ve been errant in posting, it’s because I’ve been waylaid once again. At least this has made it impossible to put my foot in my mouth. I, however, choose to see the glass as half full. Cheers!
Photo Credit: Drawing by Daniel
Tags: Emotionally Abusive Relationships, Health, Narcissism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, NPD, Warning People about Narcissists
I’m afraid I’ve been hunkered down in the trenches at school, so it’s been a while since I’ve posted. But, this week a discussion started up about the wisdom of telling a friend that they’re married to a narcissist.
Some of my regular commenters dished up a serving of humble pie and some things to consider before you speak the truth. As someone who’s been known to put both feet in my mouth, I can appreciate their reluctance to say yah or nay before you take this very big step.
When someone is involved with any emotional abuser (whether he/she be a narcissist or not), especially during the Idealization Phase, that adrenaline rush, the feeling that this person is The One, my soulmate, is overpowering. There can be a zillion Red Flags a flyin’, but the person will just put on their rose-tinted glasses, so those Red Flags fade into the background. Any mention of the N’s faults or quirky/odd behaviors will usually be explained away. The person “in love” with the N is telling you what they’ve been told. They want so badly to believe this is real. Even if the situation is clearly dodgy, they’re often convinced that contrary to all that’s happened before, they are the exception to the rule. Their love will cure all. If only.
One commenter last year had a neighbor whose husband fit the bill. There were children involved and she knew this woman’s life was miserable. But what to do? Talk to her face to face? Leave an article about narcissism in her mailbox?
Let’s face it. Most of us don’t appreciate unsolicited advice, no matter how well intended. Even when someone is telling us the truth, our natural inclination is to become defensive. We perceive the advice as a judgement, an intrusion. How dare someone presume to tell us what’s going on in OUR life! And what do you know about this disorder? Since when are you an authority? I think you might actually be the one with the problem!
I do believe in many cases the person you’re telling already knows that the person they are with is damaged. Something is amiss. But they’ve been living in denial, often because they can think of no alternative or are reliving a dysfunctional childhood dynamic. It might be ugly, but it’s familiar.
So, let’s say you DO tell someone they’ve been sharing their bed with a no-good narcissist. If you think their eyes are going to light up and they’ll say, “OMG, that’s it! That explains so much. Thank you for figuring out what’s wrong with my life. Now, I’m off to call a divorce attorney. Can you watch the kids while I start packing?,” I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.
More likely than not, you’ll be told to mind your own business.”You know your life isn’t so perfect either?” You can expect to be shut out of this person’s life altogether. More likely, they’ll shoot the messenger and bury you in a shallow grave after they delete you as a facebook friend.
Maybe though, you’ve planted a seed? Maybe after your friend/neighbor calms down, they’ll google narcissism? Maybe. But don’t count on it.
I wouldn’t have the same trepidation telling someone new on the scene that a certain someone is bad news. Of course, it helps if you don’t appear to be speaking as the jilted ex. I believe if you speak from a place of honesty and wisdom, it is possible to “warn” someone. Whether that warning will be heeded is anyone’s guess, but at least you tried.
On some level, I believe those who’ve had a Close Encounter with a Narcissist want to spare others the pain. Sometimes it’s for selfish reasons. We really are afraid that the Narcissist will find happiness with someone else, but of course, this is only an illusion. We’ve seen through the Narcissist’s bag of tricks and want to expose them for who they really are/aren’t. I realize it’s natural to want to warn others, but at the same time you want to avoid looking like the crazy one. It’s a fine line to walk.
If you see a child playing on the train tracks and the headlights of an oncoming train, do you hesitate? In this instance, I do think we have a moral obligation to speak the truth as we know it. The results might not be what we expected, but we at least we were true to ourselves.
If you’re reading this, I’m curious as to whether anyone DID say anything to you. If not, what could someone have said that might have helped? Or maybe nothing anyone said could have changed the course of what was to come next. You had to learn the hard way.
Parents in Denial March 12, 2013Posted by alwaysjan in Parenting, Teaching.
Tags: Difficult Parents, Education, Humor, Parents in Denial, Teaching, Third Grade, What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents
Saturday morning I woke up with my stomach churning over a conversation I’d had with a parent after school. No harsh words were exchanged (unlike my first year of teaching when a parent flipped me off in front of a class of second graders), but the parent looked at me incredulously when I said her child was still having the same issues as he had on Day One. Another Parent in Denial
But there’s something I need to come clean about. Before I became a teacher 10 years ago, I, too, was a bonafide Parent in Denial. If only I’d been a teacher before I became a parent, I wouldn’t have been such a pushover when it came to my sons’ lame-o excuses. My boys were angels! So any teacher who tried to tell me otherwise was obviously not used to dealing with a creative genius or a real boy.
How bad was I? When my younger son was accused of throwing an apple across the lunch area outside and hitting the custodian in the head, I insisted that it couldn’t have been him because I’d seen him throw in Little League and his aim wasn’t that good! And I believed this with all my heart.
The “apple” incident was just one of many. There were phone calls. Meetings with tribunals of teachers. Suspensions. Sometimes the police were involved.
My sons are now 30 and 26 and they are decent, hardworking young men whom I’m now very proud of. So, imagine when several years ago my accused “apple thrower” blurted out, “Mom, you know all that stuff they said I did in middle and high school?…well, I did it all.”
By then I was teaching and I had to hang my head with shame. To think I had been THAT parent. Not always, but there were a couple of rough years when I’d questioned a teacher’s motivation, competence, and even demanded that my son be changed to another class. Because of me, there were some teachers who woke up on Saturday morning with their stomachs churning. Karma?
A colleague posted What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents on Facebook. It was just what I needed to read on Saturday morning. At a time when the average new teacher leaves the profession after only 4.5 years and “parent disrespect” is cited as one of the leading reasons, I think this is timely indeed. Read it and see what you think.
28 Days Later – After Total Knee Replacement Surgery January 20, 2013Posted by alwaysjan in Health, Personal.
Tags: Gratitude, Health, Humor, Knee Replacement Recovery Time, Total Knee Replacement
I’ve never gone so long without writing a new blog post, but then I didn’t know that Santa was bringing me a new knee for Christmas. Nothing says Merry Christmas like jingle bells on a walker. Ho Ho NO!
Six years ago when I had arthroscopic surgery on my right knee for a torn meniscus, the surgeon informed me that I had the knee of an 80-year-old woman. I was considered too young for joint replacement, so the “conservative” measures began. A strap on knee brace that made me look robotic. I saw the look on a student’s face when they got a glimpse of it one day under my skirt and ended up doing my own Show and Tell. The kids thought it was pretty cool. But, in reality, it was hot and itchy since it was all synthetic. Then there were Cortisone injections that did nothing. And for two years, I worked with a personal trainer to strengthen the muscles around my damaged kneecap. I was on prescription meds, but the doctor worried that ultimately they could damage my liver. “Geez, if I’m going to blow out my liver, I could just do that with alcohol,” I said. The doctor nodded sympathetically.
Meanwhile the two flights of stairs at my old school loomed. Up and down a dozen times a day. Some days people asked if I was limping. A peg leg was beginning to seem like a viable option. My last option was an injection of an organic substance made from chicken combs (I’m not naming names). It was worth a shot (no pun intended). Oh, the jokes about whether I would sprout feathers or lay an egg. But a week later, the pain had only grown worse.
On a walking field trip to the nearby bookstore, I winced and hobbled. I resorted to doing my Lamaze breathing. One of the oh-so-nice parents asked delicately, “Are your wearing new shoes?” By the time we arrived at the bookstore, I had to sit down. If I was a boxer, I would have been down for the count. Later I hobbled back to the school and then home to book a sub. That was the end of November.
I went to see a new surgeon. He thought I was one of the less than 1 percent who have an allergic reaction to the chicken combs. Great. But, when he said he could do the surgery just before Christmas it was music to my ears. He pulled no punches, “For the first 12 weeks you’re going to hate me, but after that….you’re going to LOVE me!”
So, it’s been a month now. The three days in the hospital were doable as the IV painkillers did their job and you’ve gotta love those nurses. I was even visited by a volunteer with “Happy” the therapy dog. But then it was time to go home. The night before I was released my husband returned to find boxes lined up on our front porch. Enough equipment to start a convalescent home. Hey it’s three seats in one – a chair, a commode AND you can sit in the shower in it! Oh the look of horror on my husband’s face. “I’m no nurse,” he said proclaiming what has always been obvious. It was seeing me using a walker that unnerved him the most. When after a week I finally decided I needed to get my hair cut, he drove me up to the side door, let me out, then sped away so no one would see him with me.
Each morning I settled in for the day on the couch with my leg in the CPM (Continuous Passive Motion) machine. Our dog, Layla, didn’t appreciate losing her el primo spot on the couch to this whirring machine. I’d hoped to read, but mostly I laid in a zombified state while my knee went through the spin cycle. My husband, Richard, is an amazing cook so I was served breakfast each morning with the admonishment, “You better not get used to this!”
I don’t know how people manage to go through this operation who have a family who expects them to soldier on. I literally did nothing but watch movies and read. I followed comments on my blog. Friends texted daily. My husband usually works at home upstairs, so if I needed something, he was only a text away. He cooked three incredible meals a day.
Initially a physical therapist came to the house. After the first visit she informed me I’d need ice next time – and not for drinks. After two weeks I graduated to outpatient therapy. I actually drove to my first appointment, feeling like I was finally out amongst the living.
It’s now 28 days later. The guy hauled away the CPM, so Layla has reclaimed her spot on the couch. Last Thursday the physical therapist kicked my butt. He had me on my belly with something like a dog leash attached to my ankle that I had to pull on to raise my leg behind me. S&M. That day I told him my new nickname for him was “The Mangler.”
“If you don’t climb the mountain, you can’t see the view” is a quote I often tell my students, so I shall continue to claw my way up the mountain rock by rock even on days when gaining a foothold seems almost impossible. I can’t complain. I have insurance and I’m in pain because I’m getting better not worse. I’ve done the math. I should be “in love” by St. Patrick’s Day though I have to go back to work before then. I’ll have to settle for being “in like”.
So for this and all my family and friends who’ve been there for me, I am so grateful. Santa may have brought me a new knee, but he also brought me a new appreciation for all that is truly important in my life. Happy New Year!
Drawing by Colby
Do Narcissists Know They are Narcissists? November 11, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Narcissism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, NPD, Relationships, Self-Aware Narcissists, The Scorpion and the Frog
Someone recently commented – it was more of a rant actually. The person said that since Narcissists don’t know what they’re doing, it’s rather “mid-evil” (yes, that was the spelling) to hold them accountable for their actions. They went on to say that being critical of Narcissists should make us take a long look in the mirror at ourselves. How dare we be so judgemental toward those who know no better? To their thinking, this made the victims of a Narcissist no better than the Narcissist themselves. I heartily degree.
Although I enjoy the dialogue with my readers, the tone of the comment was so confrontational, I felt a sense of relief as I hit the Delete button, (and I can count on one hand the times I’ve done this.)
How ironic that only days later I came across “You Probably Think this Paper’s About You: Narcissist’s Perceptions of their Personality and Reputation,” a peer-reviewed article published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) in 2011 that addresses this very question. Does a Narcissist recognize their own narcissism and how it interferes with their life? FYI: We’re talking Pathological Narcissists here, Malignant Narcissists, or Clinical Narcissists, as the researchers refer to them. These are not your garden variety of narcissists – blowhards who dominate the conversation and enter the room with an implicit “TADA”!)
It took me several days to wade through the paper as it reactivated my PTSD from taking a statistics class. So, if you’re not up for the read, here’s the gist of the article. (To read the research paper in its entirety, hit the above link and then press on the Free PMC Article feature.)
“Lack of insight is believed to be a hallmark of narcissism…” begins the paper. When it comes to Narcissists’ self-insight, there are two competing views.
The Narcissist Ignorance view argues that narcissists, ” lack insight into their personality and reputation and overestimate how positively others see them.” This is akin to “ignorance is bliss.”
The Narcissistic Awareness view, however, finds that narcissists do have insight into their personality and reputation. The researchers predicted that ultimately the Narcissistic Awareness view is correct. (Bold type is mine.) Narcissists tend to recognize some of their own narcissistic traits but are more likely to see these negative qualities in a positive light. They’re masters of spin.
The Narcissistic Awareness model finds that although narcissists are likely to make a positive first impression, even the narcissist realizes that over time others do not view their performance as positive as their own self-perception.
This provides one reason why Narcissists continually seek out new people to impress. They know from experience that as people get to know them, their impression of the N will not be as positive.
“Narcissists’ failure to pursue long-term relationships and friendships may reflect their awareness that only new acquaintances see them in a positive light.”
Ultimately, “Narcissists understand that others do not see them as positively as they see themselves. Second, they understand that their reputation is more positive in a first impression context than among people who know them well. Third, narcissists describe themselves and their reputation as narcissistic.” (But they don’t necessarily view this as a bad thing.)
Narcissists have a degree of self-awareness. It’s just that they don’t/won’t change.
So even if you are clinging to the idea that a Narcissist behaves badly because they don’t know any better, you need to get your head out of your arse. Too many women (in particular) believe they are The One who can help the N see the err of their ways – only to find themselves ultimately cast aside, chastised for daring to think they had anything to offer so someone so great. Think The Scorpion and the Frog.
If you haven’t heard this tale, I’ll make it short. A scorpion asks a frog for a ride across the river. The frog knows the scorpion could sting him, so he declines. The scorpion reassures the frog. After all, if the scorpion stings the frog then they’d both drown. This seems logical, so the frog agrees to ferry the scorpion across the river. Halfway across, the scorpion stings the frog, who cries, “Why did you do that? Now we’ll both die?” The scorpion’s reply? “I couldn’t help myself. It’s just my nature.”
Know this about Narcissists. It’s just their nature. Don’t be stung again.
The Psychopath Test – Pass or Fail? September 16, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Book Review, Jon Ronson, Lack of Empathy, Narcissism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Robert Hare, Superficial Charm, The Psychopath Test
Okay, I’ll tell you straight off that my personal book shopper told me this book was “all over the place” when she handed it to me on the playground. I tucked it under a stack of fliers to send home, so as not to appear callous and indifferent to my young charges.
The last book she slipped me was Taft 2012, a rolicking fun read. Most of the books she slips me are a bit “off the beam” as my Scottish friend Lesley would say. Author Jon Ronson also wrote The Men Who Stare at Goats, which was made into a movie starring George Clooney. I was disappointed with the movie as I expected way more footage of adorable goats. Alas.
The subtitle of The Psychopath Test is “A Journey Through the Madness Industry.” The quote on the front from The New York Times Book Review calls it, “Engagingly Irreverent.” That’s something I’d like to have on my tombstone only I plan to be scattered. Alas.
The premise of the book is….well, that’s where it all gets a bit complicated.
Here goes. Ronson meets Tony who feigned insanity to avoid prison and ended up at Broadmoor in the UK. Tony has found it’s much harder to get out of the nuthouse than the Big House.
Trying to root out whether Tony is in fact a psychopath, Ronson finds himself meeting with those psychology-hating Scientologists. I admit to a certain bias here as the Church of Scientology bought an entire building where my favorite restaurant used to be and promptly evicted all the tenants. No, me/and he thinks these are strange people indeed though I perked up when I read that L. Ron Hubbard loved Coca-cola.
Armed with Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist, or PCL-R, which was designed by Candadian psychologist Robert Hare, Ronson sets out to meet famous and notorious personages to see if they meet the criteria. Here a check, there a check….you get the picture.
Along the way he meets some incredibly charming and predatory people. We also learn how the DSM-3 walked out of the primordial soup as a 30-something page booklet that evolved into the 943-page bible for the American Psychiatric Association. At the onset, Ronson cracks open the DSM-IV and promptly diagnoses himself with 12 different mental disorders.
We learn how Big Pharma has an interest in new diagnoses as there’s certainly got to be a pill to swallow for THAT disorder. (No surprise there.) And many of those people at the top of the food chain are indeed psychopaths. (Ditto.)
While Ronson did attend one of Robert Hare’s seminars and interviewed him, he’s inserted Hare as an ongoing character throughout the book and I have to admit I wondered how much of this actually happened. I do have a link to Robert Hare’s Site on Psychopathy (Without Conscience) on my blog and sure enough, “Bob” Hare, as Ronson refers to him, offers a disclaimer to the book “On Ronson.”
A book reviewer on Amazon thought the book had all the makings, but…. Oh, here’s a link to The Most Helpful Positive Review and The Most Helpful Negative Review of the book.
After reading the book, this was one thing that stuck in my mind. Two researchers in the early 1990s undertook a detailed study of the long-term recidivism rates of psychopaths who’d been through a program at Oak Ridge run by Elliot Barker in the late 60′s and early 70′s. It involved a hefty dose of LSD and a lot of hugging it out to learn empathy, something both psychopaths and narcissists lack. Barker’s program was viewed by many as proof that psychopaths can indeed change and develop empathy. Some were released.
Now in regular circumstances, 60 percent of incarcerated psychopaths released into the outside world go on to reoffend. So what did the researchers find about those psychopaths who’d been through Barker’s program and “learned” empathy? A whopping 80 percent went on to reoffend. Ultimately, the psychopaths only became better at feigning empathy/not learning it.
It’s a cautionary tale for those who think that anyone lacking empathy, whether they be a psychopath or a narcissist, can truly change. But those who’ve had A Close Encounter with a Narcissist already know this.
“Both terrifying and hilarious.” – O, The Oprah Magazine
Narcissists Are Mad Men – Episode 3 September 3, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Idealization Phase, Mad Men, Men who love the chase, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Primary Narcissistic Supply, Relationships, Secondary Narcissistic Supply, Somatic Narcissists, What is Narcissistic Supply?
I’m not a diehard Mad Men fan, but when I ran across a copy of Sterling’s Gold – Wit & Wisdom of an Ad Man, my first thought was, “Forget Sterling, this is NPD Gold!” The book is ostensibly written by Roger Sterling, Jr., better known as Don Draper’s boss. If you follow my blog, you know I’ve written about Don Draper in Is Don Draper the Devil or a Narcissist?
I thought some of the quotes in the book would make excellent jumping off points to discuss questions that keep appearing via the Search Engines that churn 24/7. I’ve been addressing some of those questions in my The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism series, but it’s summer so I’m down for something different. (Since I’m officially back at school, summer is SO over for me, so this will be the final episode.)
What Is Narcissistic Supply?
A Narcissist would rather get a reaction from a total stranger than receive a genuine compliment from someone near and dear. And the more someone “runs” from them, the more they’ve gotta have IT. What is IT? Well, it’s not love as in “Love is the Drug” by Roxy Music. No, IT is new blood to feast on. Okay, that’s sounding a little vampirish, but let’s face it, a Narcissist without supply would shrivel up and die as sure as a vampire on a sunny California day.
Narcissistic Supply is the attention given to the Narcissist from other people, whether it be from you, the cashier in the checkout line, or total strangers. It doesn’t really matter who these people are (though more important people, more desirable people do yield more of a supply high) as long as they mirror back to the Narcissist the image he’s worked so hard to perfect, project, and to protect. A Narcissist will accept positive or negative attention as long as they’re at the center of it.
Meanwhile, a Narcissist is forever on the lookout for new supply, even when they’re supposedly in a “relationship.” Why? For a narcissist, there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing. More is always better. You can be at a party with the N yet feel suddenly invisible as the N hones in on a new person to dazzle. Hey, remember me – the person you came with? Could you at least introduce me?
And oh how a Narcissist loves the chase. When someone new comes into their orbit, someone who has not “succumbed” to their act, they fire up the charm and it’s full speed ahead. But here’s the rub. The minute that someone stops running and expresses real interest in the Narcissist, their days are numbered. The N has no desire for a genuine relationship as that would require (dare I say it?) emotional intimacy. They just need to know that you’re willing to take their calls. They like knowing that the door is always open - even just a crack – because they can get their foot back in for a quick fix when they’re between chase-worthy people.
You have to understand that like children, Narcissists love novelty. Picture a child at a birthday party opening one gift and exclaiming over it only to toss that toy aside to open the next gift. (This is why in NYC when my boys were small, people no longer allowed the birthday boy/girl to open gifts in front of others. It was just too hard to watch.)
If you insist on hanging around, the Narcissist will devalue you and put you (his once new toy) on the shelf. He may take you down from time to time to play with you, but then back on the shelf you go. Or if he’s not a tidy child, he’ll just toss you onto the heap of other toys he’s grown bored with. Now you’ve been demoted to being Secondary Supply. Those in this category still interact with the Narcissist on a regular basis, but that new car smell is gone. They exist to remind the N that he’s already conquered them. Next!
That’s why the N is always on the lookout for the next best thing. Even though you love them, care about them, and would do virtually anything for them, that’s just SO not what turns them on. They’d rather have a total stranger smile at them because they’re sure it’s because that stranger thinks they’re charming, sexy, clever, fill in the blank.
No matter what you do to try and inject excitement or drama into the relationship to return to that Idealization Phase, it’s not gonna happen. The N will be happy to use you, abuse you, and even lose you as often as you’ll allow them to. You know there’s lots more where you came from!
So here’s the question. Do you really want to be used by someone who views you as “old business?”
On My 9th Year of Teaching – Looking Back at Year 1 August 19, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
Tags: Classroom Management, Death of a student, Education, First Year of Teaching, Personal, Reflections on Teaching. First year of Teaching, Teaching, Third Grade
This week I’ll go back to school. It will be my 9th year working as a credentialed teacher in a public school.
I took the scenic route to becoming a teacher. I taught art in NYC. I worked as a substitute on and off. I was a District Intern with the Los Angeles Unified School District for 10 months teaching in a modified bilingual classroom. There was no toilet paper. The jello made the kids sick. My own sons were acting up. I quit and sold my blue pocket charts at a yard sale.
Two years later, I tried another alternative program to credentialing and was placed in a classroom of high risk 5th grade students. I didn’t have the experience at that time to deal with them. Every day after school the custodian would push his broom through my classroom and say, “These are bad kids, very bad kids.” The enrollment numbers were down, so I was first to go. After only 15 days in the classroom, I couldn’t leave fast enough as I was done – or more accurately, done in.
Yet, no matter how many times I decided I was DONE with teaching, I always returned. No sooner had I sold those blue pocket charts than I was out buying more. Ultimately, I realized that it’s when I’m in the classroom that I feel most alive.
In 2004, I finally earned my California Teaching Credential. I was 50 years old. What can I say? I’m a late bloomer.
Did you know that half of all teachers leave teaching within the first five years? Looking back, it’s a wonder I even made it through my first year. It’s a year still seared in my memory as no class in pedagogy could have prepared me for what was in store.
It was only the second week of school when the principal came to the door of my classroom. This was not a good sign. Had I filled out the attendance incorrectly? He led me to the office where I met the father of one of my students. The man, head in hands, was weeping.”She was just so stressed,” he kept saying. I wasn’t quite sure what this was about.
It was only the next day that we learned his wife had committed suicide by shooting herself in the garage. And the kids? They were still at home watching TV as he had told them their mother was at work. I’d never felt so at a loss for what to do/say in my life. Several days passed and the boy returned to school. I bought a heart-shaped pillow where he could sometimes rest back in the library when he felt sad.
A new boy, Ezekiel, joined our class. He was adorable and so smart that he’d skipped first grade. He immediately befriended the boy who’d lost his mother. I remember thinking, “This is a good thing” as they were both such bright and kind-hearted boys.
But after Thanksgiving, Ezekiel did not come back to school. Could he have gone on a trip to see relatives I wondered? Then came the call. He’d collapsed at home and was at the hospital on life support. Could the children pray for him? They did – with all the strength their little second-grade hearts could muster.
The next day the principal and I drove to the hospital to see this precious boy. When a child was pushed by us in the hall on a gurney, the principal asked, “Was that him?” I honestly didn’t know. I was used to seeing Ezekiel in his school uniform with those big sparkly eyes. The family was gathered. The mood was somber. He’d just collapsed one evening at home. It all happened in the blink of an eye.
Ezekiel was taken off life support the next day. Crisis counselors from the district descended on my classroom. I’d never felt so at a loss for what to do/say in my life. But the words eventually came to me. We wrote a poem. We talked about how someone is never really gone unless you forget them.
At Ezekiel’s funeral, his first grade teacher was the first to speak. I will never forget what she said.
“Teaching is a dangerous job because you can fall in love with other people’s children.”
That’s the truth. And so begins another year.
Photo Credit: Jan Marshall
Book Review of Mr. Unavailable & the Fallback Girl August 13, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Baggage Reclaim, Books review, Ex thinks he can walk back into my life, Fear of commitment, Mr. Unavailable and the Fallback Girl, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Relationships, Self-help books
Several months ago some of my readers turned me on to Baggage Reclaim, a great relationship site out of the UK, which you’ll find on my blogroll. I find Natalie Lue’s writing on that site to be crisp, no nonsense, and on the money. She’s also got that Brit wit thing going for her. (Let’s face it – “shag” sounds so much more polite than the American translation.)
Natalie, who recently married and turned 35, spent her 20s as a “Fallback Girl” – accepting crumbs from guys who never seemed to have two feet in the door at the same time unless it was for a shag. Disappearing only to reappear as they knew the door was always open. She also played the part of the Other Woman. It wasn’t until she realized that the common denominator in all of these liaisons was… herself, that things began to click.
Mr. Unavailable & the Fallback Girl was first published as an eBook in 2008. I did not read this edition. The 2nd Edition is available as an eBook/book through Amazon and has been greatly “expanded.” Select bloggers were sent a complimentary eBook to read and review, so I’ve spent the last few sweltering days at my computer reading and taking notes.
Since most people who come to my blog are searching for information on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), I want to say straight out that this is NOT a book about narcissism though Natalie does list the DSM’s diagnostic criteria. She fears too many are too eager to embrace this diagnosis as the excuse for why their relationship failed.
She points out that Narcissists are always emotionally unavailable whereas Mr. Unavailables are not necessarily narcissistic. And she makes it clear that if you are dealing with a Narcissist, you should not walk, but RUN as they wreak so much havoc in your life. She does provide a lot of information though as to why women seek out and stay with men who are clearly not emotionally available, so this could/would apply to some of you who seem to keep dating the same “type.” (That type being a man who is incapable of committing to a healthy relationship.)
I so wanted to love this book, but I’m afraid I’m only “in like” with it. Here’s why. Between the covers is probably all you need to know if you’re someone who has repeatedly hooked up with a guy who is just not that into you and you’re virtually trying to walk on water to convince him (either overtly or covertly) that you are The One.
But at 370 pages, the book is longer than either of the two Pulitzer Prize-winning novels I’ve read this summer. As I was reading it, I began to feel like I was going in loops. Maybe it was the heat? Reading it on the computer? It was like sitting in a movie and starting to look at your watch. Shouldn’t this have ended by now? Hey, I thought that WAS the ending.
Even the same clever phrases reappeared one too many times. And I found the number of typos annoying. At one point I thought the real Mr. Unavailable was an editor! I hate to sound snarky, but Natalie knows her stuff, so this had the potential to be a virtual bible for those who’ve struggled with creating healthy relationships.
At some point, all the clever monikers, e.g., Floggers, Stonewallers, Lobbyists, Bad Pennies, Dreamers, MIMS (for Miss Independent/Miss Self Sufficient) start to seem like too many people at a noisy party. I felt like I tuned into Game of Thrones mid-season and was confused as to who was who without Peter Dinklage to help me get my bearings. I needed a flow chart to keep track.
Whenever Natalie returns to her personal narrative, however, the writing immediately becomes more compelling. She knows her stuff and to be sure there is great wisdom in this book, it’s just that sometimes less is more. This is such the case.
Do check out Baggage Reclaim for some of that Brit wit though.
Close to Home August 7, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Entertainment, Personal, Uncategorized.
Tags: Crowdfunding, Funding for films, Indiegogo, Personal
As a child, I couldn’t for the life of me sell Girl Scout cookies. My next door neighbor, Mrs. Dodge, would buy two boxes from me every year and I suspect my mother called her ahead of time.
So, when my filmmaker husband asked me to blog about his film End of the Beginning because he’s looking to raise $23,000 via crowdfunding on Indiegogo, I visibly winced.
What can I say, filmmaking is his passion. The script is great (I know because I did the final edit.) and those involved are professionals of the highest caliber. Want to buy a cookie?
Check it out. Click End of the Beginning. Even only one box of cookies would help. Boxes of cookies start at $20.
Listening to Your Gut – A Cautionary Tale July 30, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Gut Feelings, Idealization Phase, Lesley Lokko, Listening to your Gut, Narcissism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Red Flags, Relationships, You Magazine in The Mail
My dear friend in Suffolk texted, “Very interesting article in The Mail on Sunday about a famous novelist and her very strange relationship with a very odd man…it definitely read like he was a Narcissist. I felt like I should write to her and try to explain what she was dealing with.” She added, “She does not mention personality disorders. Quite a famous writer over here.”
So, I read Why did I convince myself that he loved me? by novelist Lesley Lokko and published yesterday in The Mail. Yikes! It’s like watching a horror movie and wanting to yell at the protagonist to, “Get out of the house NOW!” If you’ve had a Close Encounter with a Narcissist you know exactly where the bogeyman is hiding – in plain sight.
It’s a very interesting read indeed in the “He Swept Me Off My Feet” genre. It also shows what happens when you avoid that feeling in your gut that something is not quite right. If you’ve got time on your hands, count the Red Flags.
As Summer Sets July 22, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Life, Personal.
Tags: A Year of Wonders, Extreme Makeover House Musical Chairs, Humor, Idaho, Life, Olive Kitteridge, Personal, Photography, Pocatello, Sumisu, Summer Fun, Summer Vacation, Teaching, The Morningside House Montessori School
There’s no denying it. The end of summer is in sight, especially since this year the first day of school has been moved up to August 20th. How can this be? I just emerged from my school-induced coma! My husband said I could become a professional sleeper, but I like to think of my inert state as similar to a medically induced coma. I’m allowing the swelling to go down, so my brain cells can regenerate.
It’s no secret that most visitors to my blog are seeking information on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). I don’t often write as much about school or my personal life. But there are times when I, too, need a respite. So please hear me out.
I feel the need to take stock in what I HAVE accomplished so far this summer. Mind you, it doesn’t help that I set the bar so low that I literally trip over it when I get out of bed. My summer mantra is “Things to do – get dressed by 2.”
1) I’ve watched the entire first season of Downton Abbey so I can hold up my end of the conversation in the Teacher’s Lounge. I did make the mistake of calling my husband “Carson.” I won’t make that mistake again.
2) I flew back to the Midwest to help my mother write a zillion thank you notes to friends and family who helped when my father died in early March. My sidekick was my niece, whose job it was to provide me with comic relief. Well done, Ali! While rummaging through drawers, I stumbled upon my report card from Second Grade. I was happy to see that I “read with comprehension.”
3) While back in the Midwest, I drove down to Kansas City to visit my college roommate, Cathy aka Catherine Sherman on my blogroll. She took me off to explore parts of Kansas City I never could have imagined. Way cool. Old friends are gold friends indeed.
4) At 1/2 Price Books in Omaha, I picked up two books, Olive Kitteridge and Year of Wonders. I read both. Olive Kitteridge is a collection of overlapping stories that revolve around a retired teacher living in a small town in Maine. Most of the characters would qualify for the senior discount, so when the going gets rough they cheer themselves up with the thought that if things get any worse, they can always commit suicide. Did I mention that this book won the Pulitzer Prize? Year of Wonders is set in the plague years in England. I highly recommend it.
5) We drove (with the younger kiddo) to Idaho to visit my husband’s family and celebrate his father’s 88th birthday. I haven’t done long haul driving in years, and our younger son was barred from driving my husband’s car, so it was just the two of us and all those Starbucks gift cards I received from students at the end of the year. The photo of the sunset was taken as we drove by McCammon, Idaho. All three of us had our iPhones out and then I remember asking, “Hey, who’s driving the car?!!!)
We stayed with my husband’s sister Jane in her Extreme Makeover house. She’s since opened a Montessori school, The Morningside House, in her basement. My husband said when I saw it, he thought I was going to cry. There were actually TWO sinks and some newfangled things called electrical outlets.
6) While in Idaho we saw my oldest son and his girlfriend. We laughed so hard at the new Japanese restaurant, Sumisu, that the waitress declared that we were her Number One table for the night. It also helps that we Californians are accustomed to tipping 20 percent, whereas the local Mormons tend to only tip 10 percent. Is this what it feels like to be a “whale” in Las Vegas?
7) Having returned home, I’ve already (with a lot of help from my husband) repainted out bedroom in the same color that I loved in the Extreme Makeover house. It’s Sherwin Williams “Seascape.” When the guy told me how much the paint cost (it was already mixed at that point) my jaw dropped. It must have flecks of gold in it!
Now that the end of Summer Vacation is in sight, I’m trying to make the most of every day. In no time at all, I’ll be sitting in the Teacher’s Lounge eating a partially defrosted Lean Cuisine. Up next is working on a picture book that I’ve had in mind for quite some time. I might have to start sleeping in my clothes so as to get a head start on each day.
Here’s to sitting out on the front porch and watching the world go by.
Photo Credits: Jan Marshall
Narcissists Are Mad Men – Episode 2 July 15, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Lack of Empathy, Mad Men, Narcissism, Narcissist, Narcissist's lack of empathy, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, NPD, Relationships, Roger Sterling, Sterling's Gold
I’m not a diehard Mad Men fan, but when I ran across a copy of Sterling’s Gold – Wit & Wisdom of an Ad Man, my first thought was, “Forget Sterling, this is NPD Gold!” The book is ostensibly written by Roger Sterling, Jr., better known as Don Draper’s boss. If you follow my blog, you know I’ve written about Don Draper in Is Don Draper the Devil or a Narcissist?
I thought some of the quotes in the book would make excellent jumping off points to discuss questions that keep appearing via the Search Engines that churn 24/7. I’ve been addressing some of those questions in my The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism series, but it’s summer so I’m down for something different.
”Lack of Empathy”
It is the Narcissist’s lack of empathy that is their trump card. No matter what you do or say, that bored/put upon look on their faces (sometimes accompanied by an eye roll) says it all. Your concerns are so utterly trivial. You’re boring me! It’s the Narcissist’s lack of empathy that ultimately reveals who they are and more importantly, who they aren’t.
We recently had a lively discussion on Empathy vs. Sympathy on my blog. Thanks to those who put in their two cents. I believe we now have enough to buy a cup of coffee or a cuppa. Make no mistake – it is the Narcissist’s lack of empathy that reveals their inner void. They are literally unable to see beyond their own noses due to their stunted egos. They can be like cranky children who need a nap and can argue endlessly contradicting themselves as they go. It’s all about them. It’s their party and they’ll cry if they want to, but don’t you dare cry!
When you call the N on their bad behavior, whether it be blatant lies, lies by omission, cheating on you, or just not showing the teeniest bit of interest in the things that matter most to you, you become a nattering needy nuisance. Make no mistake. It’s not love or anger that will kill your soul – it’s indifference. The Narcissist has an uncanny ability to deny that your concerns are real. It’s all in your imagination!
No matter how carefully you try to frame your concerns, you’ll be accused of being “too sensitive” “too needy” or “a drama queen.”
Women (especially) often resort to writing a letter so they can be heard. Since the Narcissist won’t indulge in a genuine conversation, they hope to say what’s really on their minds minus the rolling of the eyes. They choose their words oh-so carefully, so as not to inflame or offend. They mail the letter only to get no response. Nada.
The real danger is that where your thoughts are routinely dismissed or belittled, you begin to stop expressing your thoughts. No one wants to say something only to have it shot down. You begin to self censor. The N has literally “got your tongue.”
Most Ns sling their verbal arrows behind closed doors. So if you dare tell someone what you’re experiencing – they’ll give you that look. The look that tells you that perhaps YOU are the one with the problem. Some people have said it would have been better to have been physically abused – at least they’d have visible scars to prove the abuse they suffered.
I once confided in my friend “Joe” that I’d just learned that one of my students was being sexually abused by her father. He’d met the girl, so I thought he’d find this news upsetting. A simple, “That’s awful” would have sufficed. Instead, his reaction was, “I hope you’re not going to get all emotional about this because that will just get in the way of our project.” He couldn’t be bothered.
To the N, a genuine emotion is a Level Red Security Alert. BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! They don’t know how to respond. Instead, they tend to have comeback lines that they can deliver with chilling detachment. Their response is designed to shut down any meaningful conversation. When a person does not have a voice, they slowly cease to exist. They begin to fade into the background like a TV set left on. This is fine with the Narcissist as they really could care less about your concerns. If you think otherwise, they’ll just change the channel and up the volume to drown you out – and leave you to lick your “imaginary wounds.”
When Bloggers Die – A Belated Thank You July 10, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Blogging, Halycon, Joanna Asmun, Joanna M. Ashmun, Kathy Krajo, NPD, Operation Doubles, When Bloggers Die
Teachers are frequently reminded that we DO Make a Difference (and I’ve got the mugs to prove it!). But as I write this, it’s not teachers I have in mind. Summer is my time to get organized. I was recently updating links on my blog and going through the myriad of websites I’ve bookmarked over the last five years in reference to Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
I’ve referred so many of my readers to Halcyon. So I was surprised to revisit the site and find that a page had been added in 2011 informing readers that its creator, Joanna M. Ashmun, died in 2009. How could I not have known? Halycon is written with style, heart, and professionalism. Joanna’s website (with footnotes, no less!) is so carefully researched that it’s hard to believe she is/was not a mental health professional.
Then I came across another blog I’d bookmarked, Operation Doubles, which I also found extremely helpful back when I was reeling from my close encounter with a narcissist. It was written by a Kathy Krajo, a professional tennis instructor and editor. When I pressed the link, I was referred to The Path Whisperer where I learned that Kathy died in 2008. Say it ain’t so.
While Joanna’s site Halycon still stands and a Facebook memorial site has been set up, Kathy’s blogs have been reprinted on a variety of other sites including Sanctuary for the Abused. Both Joanna and Kathy were civilians in the trenches – people who’d encountered more than their share of narcissists and felt a need to inform and warn the rest of us.
I just want to say kudos to two women who illuminated those dark corners of this disorder with their writing. They helped countless people (myself included) and showed how one doesn’t have to have a bunch of letters after one’s name to write coherently and oh so bravely about a subject that was rarely discussed even five years ago. I knew neither woman personally, but through their writing, I felt like I did.
Although I said this wasn’t about teachers, ultimately, that’s what both Joanna and Kathy were – teachers. They shared their experiences and observations so that the rest of us could learn from them. I’m deeply indebted to them. Their legacy is lasting.
Photo Credit: Leadsmall.org
Narcissists Are Mad Men – Episode 1 July 6, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Can a Narcissist Love?, Don Draper, Mad Men, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Narcissists, Narcissists and Other Women, NPD, Personality Disorders, Relationships, Roger Sterling, Sterling's Gold, Will the Narcissist Find Happiness
I’m not a diehard Mad Men fan, but when I ran across a copy of Sterling’s Gold – Wit & Wisdom of an Ad Man, my first thought was, “Forget Sterling, this is NPD Gold!” The book is ostensibly written by Roger Sterling, Jr., better known as Don Draper’s boss. If you follow my blog, you know I’ve written about Don Draper in Is Don Draper the Devil or a Narcissist?
I thought some of the quotes in the book would make excellent jumping off points to discuss questions that keep appearing via the Search Engines that churn 24/7. I’ve been addressing some of those questions in my The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism series, but it’s summer, so I’m down for something different.
First of all, you might be wondering, ” Are narcissists actually mad men?” I believe that although they would deny that they’re actually “mad” (as in angry, not crazy), their all-encompassing envy of others leads them to be angry, unsettling men/women who spend an inordinate amount of time trying to avoid and deny the inner conflict that rages. Their anger is like a pot put on the back burner left to simmer. It informs their every move.
I thought the above quote was especially appropriate for all my readers who ask:
Is it possible for a narcissist to find happiness with another person?
Although you want me to say NO, and yes, NO is ultimately the right answer (wow, that was confusing) you must KNOW this. It IS possible for “your N” to find someone who will tolerate their BS better than you. You’re not the only doormat in town, and they’re happy to wipe their feet on anyone who leaves the door open so they can gain entry.
Dysfunction – oh, let me count the ways! There’s the Meanie/Martyr relationship dynamic, which is self explanatory. Then there’s the Pursuer/Distancer variation where when one partner tries to get close, the other withdraws emotionally, creating a perpetual chase. Another variation is Responsible/Irresponsible, which is akin to a parent-child partnering. All of these exist in couples (narcissistic or not) and are not conducive to a healthy long-term relationship that will meet both partners’ individual needs.
So, although it might appear that a Narcissist has found happiness with another, remember that for the N, “happiness” is only to be found in the dictionary. For somatic narcissists, the new car smell wears off quickly, so they’ll soon be on the prowl. Cerebral Ns will begin to withhold sex leaving their partner feeling confused and abused. Most likely you know what I’m talking about because you’ve been there.
And just in case you’re tempted, there’s no point in warning the new person (though it might seem like the right/righteous thing to do). Don’t. Can you imagine if someone had taken you aside when you were in the throes of the Idealization Phase and told you the emperor had no clothes? You’d have thought they were mad and questioned their motives. You don’t want to come off looking like the crazy one, so bite your tongue. The train wreck is going to happen, so you don’t want to be playing on the tracks.
Ns ultimately live and die alone despite appearances to the contrary. Their life is like a film viewed over and over with the quality of the tape (okay, that reference is SO 20th Century!) degrading with each viewing, so that after years of their antics, the show is barely watchable.
Yes, Narcissists are mad men. But if you believe otherwise, you’re the one who is mad (as in crazy). Peace and Summer Dreaming.
Click here to read Narcissists Are Mad Men – Episode 2.
Photo Credit: Jan Marshall
1/4 of July June 13, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Travel.
Tags: 4th of July, American Expats, Crossing the Mexican Border, Holidays, Humor, Independence day, July 4, Life, Memorable 4th of July, Mexico, Moving to Mexico, Personal, San Miguel de Allende, Travel
A friend recently asked me about my family’s sojourn in Mexico. I told her I’d send a link to this post which I published in 2007. But, low and behold, it had vanished! As in “Gone Baby Gone.” Fortunately, in my early days of blogging, I printed out a copy of everything…just in case. So here it is again in all of its “Old Glory.”
When I was a kid growing up in Omaha, the days leading up the 4th of July included a pilgrimage just outside the city limits to buy fireworks. These were piddly-ass fireworks by today’s standards; sparklers, snakes, pinwheels, pop-bottle rockets, and the real show stopper – the Roman candle. My brother always managed to secure some M80s and cherry bombs. These served to remind us that it WAS possible to blow your hand off with one of these babies.
Neighborhood families would pool their fireworks and put on a show. My father arrived carrying a length of a tin downspout to these gatherings, which did double duty as a poor man’s rocket launcher.
As kids, we were only allowed to play with the snakes and sparklers on our own. We wrote our names in the air, immune to the bacon-grease snap, snap, snapping on our arms. On July 5th, the air smelled vaguely like gunpowder and the driveway had black spots where the snakes that grown, writhed, then turned to ash.
The 4th of July I’m thinking about today though was spent in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. We were desperately looking for Puente Numero Dos – Bridge Number Two, the only route, save wading crossing the Rio Grande, to get back into the U.S.
My family; husband Richard and sons, Taylor, 10, and Ian, 6, and I had moved to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico to escape the high cost of living in New York. We’d had a ridiculously fun time in Zihuataneo, Mexico a year before and Mexico and the ghost of Frido Kahlo beckoned. Never mind that we’d never actually set foot in San Miguel. Hey, I’d done the research.
“You mean you’re moving to NEW Mexico,” friends queried. ”No, Mexico!” we replied rather enjoying the look of shock on their faces. We were ready for a change, and we were up for anything, short of moving to New Jersey. A sojourn in Mexico sounded exotic and the price was right.
San Miguel de Allende is a gorgeous colonial gem nestled in the mountains three hours north of Mexico City. It’s long been a mecca for artists and has an established colony of American expats, who are drawn by San Miguel’s beauty and cheap real estate.
I flew to San Miguel two weeks before the arrival of the troops. It was my job to secure the beachhead and lease a house. “Remember,” my husband implored. “Only rent a house that’s already furnished and has a telephone.”
Well, can you imagine what kind of house I rented? Three floors stacked like a stucco layer cake. No furniture and no phone. It was the garage that was the deal maker. Richard and the boys were flying to Omaha so my parents could give us their 4-cylinder Oldsmobile Firenza station wagon. We hadn’t had a car in 11 years so this was a BIG deal. We couldn’t park our new/old car on the street!
My family arrived. It was then I realized it wasn’t New York that made me feel stressed. It was my family. Not a good sign. The house I’d rented had recently been remodeled and all of the construction had stirred up the scorpions. Every time we took a shower, a scorpion climbed out of the drain. Just the anticipation of their appearance made the shower scene in “Psycho” seem G-rated. There were so many scorpions that I took to sleeping with a flashlight on and aimed at the ceiling. Just in case.
Four days after we’d moved in, the toilet on the second floor wouldn’t flush. We tied a dog leash to a bucket and lowered it into the cistern beneath the patio to get water while awaiting the eminent arrival of the “handyman.” We carried the bucket of water up two flights of stairs just so we could use the toilet. I was starting to feel like I lived in Africa – my life was starting to revolve around obtaining water. All I needed was a jar to transport it on my head.
I’d first been shown the house during siesta time, the only time of day it turned out that the aerobic studio across the street was not open. We were awakened at 6 a.m. each morning by a pulsating disco beat and a woman yelling, “Uno, dos, tres!” They knocked off for siesta then continued until 10 p.m. Disco was still alive in San Miguel.
The burro next door began braying at the crack of dawn. This was followed by ten minutes of silence and then the braying started in earnest. We joked that it was the Mexican snooze alarm. And the coyote tethered to the roof on the other side of us howled at night. We laid awake in bed. Less than three weeks into our sojourn, we’d lapsed into severe culture shock. For the first time I uttered the “L word” – leave.
There was one small problem. I’d signed a two-year lease and our landlord, Pat, had no intention of letting us wriggle out of it. Pat was a widow from Michigan who’d retired to Mexico. She’d married a local attorney, a certain Sr. Caballero. Pat bore more than a passing resemblance to Marjorie Mane’s “Ma Kettle” character. Finally, we told Pat we needed to talk about our situation. I’d paid first and last month’s rent plus a security/cleaning deposit, so I thought that just maybe, she’d let us off the hook.
Just in case she wanted to play hardball, I was the designated weeper. The trouble was, once I started crying, “I want to go home,” it was no longer an act. I really wanted to go home. Pat was unfazed. “You know what you need?” she said matter of factly. “You need to go to the corn roast over at the Presbyterian church and meet some nice folks.” She added that if we did try and break the lease, her husband, Sr. Caberro, would have our car impounded so we COULDN’T leave.
Panicking, I ran up to the U.S. Consulate to talk to Colonel Maher, an ex-CIA op, whom I’d met with once before. It was siesta time and the consulate was officially closed, but the shuttered windows to his office were open. I could see him sitting in the dark, feet up on his desk, and smoking a cigar. He looked like he was plotting to overthrow a mid-sized country.
I called to him and he came over to the window. I breathlessly explained our predicament. He listened attentively, chomping on the cigar before giving me his best legal advice. ”I know Sr. Cabellero,” he said. “He’s well connected. So my advice to you is to disappear.” The shutters snapped shut.
Now when I’d leased the house, we’d also inherited a maid, Lara, from the previous tenants. Lara was incredibly kind and was paid so little I would have felt guilty not to keep her on. We’d never had a maid before and I felt so awkward about having someone clean up after me that I walked around and helped her clean. Lara told me the previous tenants, two American women, had left suddenly in the middle of the night after only two months. A pattern was beginning to emerge..
We frantically began packing up the car with Lara’s help. Pat lived just up the street and had a clear view of our house so there was an air of urgency. All of the furniture I’d bought at the mercado would go to Lara, and all of the housewares as well. To my mind it was not much, but I came to realize that to Lara, it was the world. We knew her husband had cancer and she was supporting an unknown number of children.
A relative of Lara’s arrived with a truck to cart off the furniture. Lara’s husband sat in the back of the truck, too weak to help. I wrote out a letter and in my broken Spanish bequeathed all of our personal items to Lara as regalos, or gifts. Lara cried with happiness. Her children would sleep in beds for the first time that night. We kept one small side table with a hand carved top, which we tied to the top of the car.
When Richard and the boys had arrived three weeks earlier, the car was packed to the gills. Now I had to squeeze in, along with my luggage and a set of Mexican pottery that I couldn’t bear to leave behind. The car was essentially a low-rider heaving under the added weight. Richard took the hills out of town slowly. With every bump, we could hear the bottom of the car scrape against the cobblestoned street. We headed north. From time to time we looked in the rear view mirror, half expecting to see Sr. Caballero chasing us with a posse.
Richard was retracing the route he’s already driven to get to San Miguel, but for me this was uncharted terrain. I was trying to take in the surreal landscape that is northern Mexico. In the middle of nowhere, a person would appear alongside of the road. We passed people who sold dried rattlesnake skins for a living. They lived in “houses” with organ cactus as walls.
The first night we stopped at motel that had never seen better days. When the guy at the front desk asked for our address, we mumbled something about being in transition. “Hippies!” he ascertained. This was the early 90s and the mere mention of “hippies” made me feel like we’d fallen through a rip in some time continuum. But, Taylor set him straight. “We’re homeless!” he announced.
The plan was to cross the border into Laredo, Texas. On the south side of the Rio Grande, lies the sprawling bastard child city that is Nuevo Laredo. It’s the equivilent to living on the wrong side of the tracks. Nuevo Laredo has been plagued by the kind of violence that accompanies drug trafficking. Wearing a badge is akin to wearing a target.
It was summer and the temperature hadn’t fallen below 100 for days. Even after the sun had finally set, there was no relief from the heat. When we finally saw the lights of Nuevo Laredo we cheered. In the distance, we could see the lights of Laredo, Texas – the promised land. All we had to do now was find Puente Numero Dos and we’d be home free. It was then that steam from the radiator began billowing out from the hood. We cursed the universe. Then cursed it some more. We pulled over and waited for the temperature gauge to go down then drove another mile. We stopped and repeated the ritual. It was slow going.
The boys’ survival instincts had obviously kicked in because they’d stopped talking altogether. They knew the next thing to blow was going to be mom or dad. Finally, we saw the sign; Puente Numero Dos.
A huge American flag waved on the Texas side of the bridge. I’d never felt such a surge of patriotism. That’s my flag! I felt like the character Sally Field played in, Not Without My Daughter after she’s recovered her kidnapped child and is running toward the American flag at the embassy.
Only 40 feet from the border, plumes of steam engulfed the car and we shut off the engine. I steered and Richard pushed. Slowly, we inched toward American soil. A U.S. Customs agent walked over to greet us. Never had English sounded so melodic. We stood there sweating and shell shocked. As the border agent checked our papers, we heard what sounded like a series of explosions. “What’s going on?” we asked. The border agent looked at us, incredulously. “It’s the Fourth of July!“ he said. We looked up to see the sky filled with fireworks. We didn’t care that they were red, white, and green.
We got the last room at La Quinta, only a stone’s throw from the bridge on the American side. Taylor walked into the room and promptly threw up. He then rinsed out his mouth (“Mom, can I drink the water now?”) and announced, “I’m hungry. Can we go somewhere and eat?” Richard took the boys to the Denny’s next door where they gorged on chicken-fried steak. Me, I laid on the bed in the air-conditioned room and turned on the TV. The sound of Ted Koppel’s voice was the sweetest lullaby I’d ever heard.
Ted Bundy’s Third Grade Teacher May 17, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Uncategorized.
Tags: 9-year-olds as Psychopaths, Conduct Disorder, Eddie Haskell, Education, Leave it to Beaver, Mental Health, Narcissism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, New Scientist, NPD, ODD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Psychopathing Children, Psychopaths, Psychopathy, Robert Hare, Teaching, Ted Bundy, The Bad Seed
I don’t know who Ted Bundy‘s teacher was, but I can’t help but wonder if she (sorry, but the majority of elementary teachers do have that XX chromosome thing going), noticed anything off about young Ted? Serial killers may take a while to reach their full potential (ouch!), but from those who’ve been studied, it’s clear that there was something off early on. Perhaps the class hamster met an untimely death? Or maybe, like so many psychopaths, Ted skated by on superficial charm. Think Eddie Haskell from Leave It to Beaver.
‘Wally’ Cleaver: [at the bottom of the staircase, calling out to his mother upstairs] Hey, Mom!
June Cleaver: Yes, Wally.
‘Wally’ Cleaver: Could Eddie spend the night here?
June Cleaver: Not while your father’s away.
‘Eddie’ Haskell: [dejected] Boy. Everybody around here is wise to me. I might just have to move to a new town and start all over.
Historically, the Big Three predictors of aberrant behavior are bed wetting, cruelty to animals, and fire starting. Personally, I’d add laughing when other children are hurt and inappropriate remarks showing callowness and a lack of empathy. Yet while most people associate psychopaths with serial killers, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Feb 19, 2011 issue of New Scientist, a crackerjack science magazine, featured an interview with Kent Keihl, whose studied the origin in the brain of psychopathic behavior. Kent also grew up down the street from Ted Bundy which only stoked his interest in how two people in the same zip code take such different trajectories in life.
I couldn’t help but fixate on his comment, “There are probably many psychopaths out there who are not necessarily violent, but are leading very disruptive lives in the sense that they are getting involved in shady business deals, moving from job to job, or relationship to relationship, always using resources everywhere they go but never contributing. Such people inevitably leave a path of confusion, and often destruction behind them. “ (Bold face mine.)
Robert Hare, the Godfather of Psychopathy, wrote Sharks in Suits detailing how psychopaths have been able to thrive on Wall Street and as CEOs. Think Bernie Madoff and the path of destruction he left behind. And he didn’t even need duct tape!
I found Can You Call a 9 Year Old a Psychopath? featured last Sunday in The New York Times Magazine to be a fascinating read. The Huffington Post did a follow-up piece 9-Year-Old Psychopaths – Dr. Alan Ravitz on How to Diagnose Children as Psychopaths.
Okay, I teach 9-year-olds. Have I had any students who I thought were psychopaths? I can think of one, maybe two. But only time will tell. As teachers, we’re forever hopeful that we can make a difference. But still, I document everything so when America’s Most Wanted comes knocking, I’m ready.
The thinking has always been that it is irresponsible to diagnose/label a developing child as a psychopath. So children exhibiting symptoms that would be considered psychopathic traits in the adult population are diagnosed instead with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), or with Conduct Disorder (CD). Rhoda, the character from the cult movie The Bad Seed , probably would have had CD. While not all of those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are psychopaths, all psychopaths have strong narcissistic traits. But this does not factor in as children are inherently narcissistic, so narcissism is a given. Bottom Line – Psychopathy, Anti-Social Personality (Sociopathy) and Narcissism are like close kin all dancing around that same May Pole of Lack of Empathy.
Some children diagnosed with these disorders eventually “grow out of them” and become functioning adults. The psychiatric community has always erred on the side of caution, as there’s much we don’t know about the developing human brain and/or the genetic predisposition for psychopathy. It’s the old nature vs. nurture, or possibly a N&N cocktail of circumstances. Just like drinking, you can’t become a psychopath until you’re 18.
That said, I’ve got stories. I’ve had students whose parents thought I was the teacher who could turn their child around. And I tried mightly – but the Mississippi flows south. I have a friend who carries a mug that says Miracle Worker, but as teachers we can only do so much. We’d all like to think that we can be The One who makes a difference, but more often than not the die is cast. I take no joy in saying this.
When I tell people I teach third grade, their response if often, “Oh, they’s so cute at that age. They don’t have all the problems that come with older kids.” What rock have they been hiding under? We have students who have had IEPs (Individual Education Plans) since Kindergarten to deal with a variety of emotional issues (frequently a result of abuse), but sometimes not.
I’ve had students who laughed when another child was hurt (and not the nervous laugh), or go out of their way to inflict physical or emotional pain on their peers. I’ve also had students who were bald faced liars and master manipulators – at 7 years of age. I even had a student who so terrified his babysitter that he made her pay him $5 day to go to school! And I’ve had parents in denial while others were at wit’s end as to how to deal with their child’s behavior.
I’ve seen some scary s*it, so I remain vigilant – and I document everything. I’ve also never had a class hamster – just in case.
History Wax Museum – Till Death Do Us Part 2 May 1, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
Tags: Education, History, History Wax Museum, Humor, Open House Projects, Teaching, Third Grade, What is History Wax Museum
When I wrote History Wax Museum – Till Death Do Us Part, I ended by saying that I would NEVER do this project again. Not with 28 students. Well, as my mother always said, “Never say never,” or as I like to say, “Crow is best eaten while warm.”
Fast forward a year. I now have 31 third graders and History Wax Museum is HAPPENING! Why? Two teachers are new to 3rd grade, so they don’t have any lingering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from last year. And those of us who are veterans? Well, what can I say? I’d like having a baby. Once you pop the little booger out, you tend to forget all that came before.
It also helps that History Wax Museum is performed at Open House. For teachers this means no Dog and Pony Show (my dog has been dead for years and the pony is out to pasture). No attempts to out-cutesy the teacher next door and NO cleaning the classroom. Can you say bliss?
This year a parent suggested that students should be able to explain just what a history wax museum is to the uninitiated. Okay, here’s what you need to know. NO WAX is harmed in the making of the History Wax Museum. The students stand frozen in a pose in front of their tri-fold board. There is a button on the floor (okay, it’s a fake button – a red paper circle actually) that visitors step on to activate the character. The student then “comes to life” and tells their story.
Last year, I found myself doing a lot of things that weren’t covered in my teacher credentialing program like throwing together costumes for kids whose parents couldn’t pull it together. Galileo showed up with a piece of a white t-shirt to wear as a beard. It looked a bit like a do-rag. Really? That’s the best you could do?
I sprinted to the local Out of the Closet and found a woman’s frilly shirt. It was supposed to be for Florence Nightingale, but she pulled a costume together at the last minute. Florence (The “Lady with the Lamp”) Nightingale even had a lantern thanks to my neighbors. Galileo ended up wearing the frilly shirt. He did manage to drag in a HUGE telescope for visitors to trip over.
I also helped Abe Lincoln, who was portrayed by a girl, make a stove pipe hat from a paper plate and some black paper. It turned out way better than I ever imaged. Abe’s mom found a “beard” at Michael’s. The girl looked like she had a furry hamster clinging to her face!
This year, I’ve got a new group of kids who are doing a lot of different people. I’m thinking I might sandwich George Carlin between Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi. LOVE IT!
Both Picasso and Gandhi are being played by girls. Gandhi has nixed wearing a skull cap. She asked me for advice on her costume. Another teacher suggested, “How about a diaper?” Okay, that is SO not happening. A lovely parent from last year from India stopped by for a costume consultation. All I know is it involves bedsheets. With another kid’s John Lennon glasses, I believe we have lift off for Gandhi!
I couldn’t resist taking the photo of the Secret Lives of Great Artists. Last year’s Frido Kahlo (I have Frida “dos” this year.) was surprised to learn that she’d had affairs with women as well as men. I have learned to deftly handle these delicate questions. I’ve found that, “Whatever floats your boat” accompanied by a wink explains so much about the human condition. And to be honest, my Frida was more distressed that Diego was so fat.
Queen Elizabeth I took me aside the other day to let me know that her father Henry VIII was behaving very inappropriately with her – something about spanking and tickling. I suggested she just skip to the beheading of her mother, Anne Boleyn. Nudity – no. Violence – yes. That said, what about Annie Oakley? How can you be a sharpshooter without a gun? Annie made one out of paper, but it looked like a Saturday night special. Now if we can just get a 2×4 and get carving…
Photo Credit: Jan Marshall
The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism #6 April 7, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Idealization Phase, Narcissism, Narcissist in Job Interviews, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Red Flags, Relationships, Why do I miss Narcissist?
I never could have imagined that so many people would read my 3-part series Close Encounter with a Narcissist. Or imagined how many people would leave comments detailing their own often heart-wrenching “close encounters.”
When I check my blog stats (something us bloggers obsessively do), I like to check the “search engine terms” people typed in before they were electronically dropped off at my blog’s doorstep.
In this series, The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism, I’ll use a “search term” I’ve come across as a jumping off point for a discussion. (Please read the Close Encounter with a Narcissist series first, or it’s like walking in after the movie’s started. Shhhh!) Here goes.
Why do I Miss the Narcissist?
When a Narcissist zeros in on a new source of supply, he (or she) is on their best behavior. The Academy Award-winning performance they give has been perfected by years of being “on stage” - in the sense that they are literally performing a role in what the rest of us call “life.” They cling to this role and rarely vary from the script. It’s worked before, and it will work again. There’s not a lot of improvisation involved. That First Impression of them is seared into your memory. They can be so endearing or (substitute appropriate adjective).
So a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) can be charming, seductive, endearing, and even appear to be compassionate and caring. But again, this is all an act calculated to disarm their victim’s defenses. Is it conscious? I don’t know. I’m not sure if they even know. But it’s what they do best. It’s how they roll. And it can seem incredibly genuine…at the time.
The article, Narcissists Often Ace Job Interviews, Study Finds, illuminates how Narcissists can turn on the charm in any given situation to close the deal. It’s only later that their true colors emerge.
So when the Narcissist tires of Act 1 (Idealization) and goes to Act 2 (Devaluation & Discard aka D&D), the change in their manner towards you can leave you with a wicked case of emotional whiplash. WTF? Why did they say that? Why are they playing games with me? Why would…(fill in the blank)?
Who doesn’t want to cling to that first impression? Or memories of the “good times?” You’d like to think that they could return to being THAT person, not realizing that THAT person was only a ruse.
When I asked my sister-in-law, who was married to a Narcissist for 14 years, when her husband changed, she said (without hesitation) “the day after we married.”
During the Idealization Phase, the Narcissist is anything, no make that EVERYTHING, you want him to be. But then the novelty wears off and real life enters into the equation. The D&D begins.
I can understand those who struggle to get over a Close Encounter with a Narcissist. They want that person back. The person they thought they knew. But time travel is not possible, so there’s NO going back. You have to be able to see the Narcissist for what they were/are - an imposter.
What makes it even more difficult to recover from such an encounter is the feeling that you’ve been duped – or played. You’re an intelligent person, but now you feel like somebody’s fool. What can I say? Do not expect any apologies or closure. You may understand what happened intellectually while you’re still hurting emotionally. It takes time. And more time. But, you CAN move on and flourish.
It’s a painful scenario, but the curtain falls after Act 3. The show’s over. Are you ready to move on?
Google Doodles – So That’s What They’re Called! February 20, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Worth Knowing.
Tags: Changes to Google Logo, Google Doodle Museum, Google Doodles, Google Logo, Google logo on merchandise, Gregor Mendel, Jeopardy, Jeopardy categories, Popular Culture
I’m proposing a new category for Jeopardy - Google Doodles! I can just see Alex Trebek. in his ever-knowing voice saying, “For $500…This doodle was to honor….?” If you answered Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics, you’d be smokin’ hot (and $500 richer).
I love it when Google does that name change thing, which I’ve come to learn is called a Google Doodle. The first doodle was created in 1998 when Goggle founders Larry and Sergey attended the Burning Man festival in Nevada and did a stick drawing of a man behind the second “o” in Google to indicate they were “out of the office.”
Since then, over 1000 doodles have been created, and the field is open to Google Doodle wannabes.
On Doddle4Goggle, students are invited to submit original artwork around the theme, “If I could travel in time, I ‘d visit…” The winner’s art will not only be featured on Google’s homepage, but on a limited edition of Crayola’s 64-Crayon boxes (How I used to covet those!).
I love that sometimes you have to guess what the doodle is about. Like with the tribute for Les Paul’s 96th birthday. I had to google (verb) Google (noun) to find out what was going on. But how cool is it to be able to play the virtual guitar? Even cooler was the Goggle Doodle marking the Egyptian Election in 2011.
But wait, there’s more! Did you know that your favorite Google Doodle is available on merchandise? Oh yeah. You can visit the Google Doodle Museum to check out all of the doodles and the Doodle Store, where many of the doodles are available on t-shirts, mugs, and bags. Who knew?