Tonight I have the “honor” of hosting my uncle, the King of Overt Narcissists (KOON). He has cancer and is getting a 3rd opinion at a hospital near me, so he is spending the night at my house and I’ll take him to his appointment in the morning. I was asked to do this by his sister, my Aunt, who was supposed to host him but is on call for her work (so she claims). When I called him to make the arrangements he started to tell me, for the 10th time, in excruciating detail, each part of his ordeal. He was allegedly told by one Dr. that he could be “cured” and, after completing this Dr’s protocol he was not cured. He feels betrayed. To the core of his being in fact, because how on earth could someone fail him?
I had a particularly terrible day the day I had to call him, and I started the conversation with that. I said “hey, I’ve had a shit day and am not up for conversation, but you can stay here and I’ll take you to your appointment”. A normal person would have said “gee, are you ok? Can I do something to help?”, but not KOON. He said “that’s great because you know that Dr told me he could cure me……..” etc. I cut him off and said “we’ll talk on Sunday. See you then” and hung up.
So here I sit, tidying my house for him, planning a dinner, washing the bedding in the room he’ll be in, and growing what for me feels like a shell of callouses around my heart. My normal heart reaches out to those in pain. My normal reaction is to listen to someone describe their pain, even if they drone on about it. I am the person who people cry their heart out to, and I listen and empathize. Regardless of how I might feel, whether I think they are wrong or right, I listen and empathize. I am the person that understands that each of us feels our problems as if they are the worse in the world; that our problems to us are the worse in the world.
Unfortunately, this had gotten me into trouble – i.e. 25 years with a covert narcissist. That open heart, that willingness to listen, that desire to be there for others, is what landed me in the spot I now find myself. My willingness to believe that all people are inherently good, that all of us are sincere in our approach to life, that in each person lies a heart ready to receive, is simply wrong.
There are BAD PEOPLE out there.
I guess growing up surrounded by narcissists made my marriage to one inevitable. Without understanding what I was dealing with, I naturally looked to replicate my comfort zone, and boy did I. I married what I lived with: selfish, self-centered, uncaring, demanding people. And these people are BAD.
I’m done making excuses for them. I’m done understanding where they came from, what happened to them to make them behave the way they do. I don’t care what happened to them. Bad things happened to me, like growing up with a covert narcissist and an alcoholic and, while I’m not perfect, I’m not a selfish narcissist.
We are not our experiences, we are what we choose to do with our experiences.
I chose to work hard, to look at who I am, who I want to be, how I want others to view me. The fact that I am surrounded by people who did not make that choice is not my problem, and I will no longer entertain their selfish desires.
My plan is to start the evening reminding him that I know his story. I’ve heard it several times, and I will not listen to it again. We can talk about his upcoming appointment, his current treatment plan and his prognosis, but that is all.
After that we have unlimited options of conversation topics. They include things like me, my kids, my yard, my house, my surfing, my cancer, my current treatment plan, and my prognosis. Once we are done with those we can talk about any of the million other topics of conversation available to us. We can talk about gardening, movies, books, earthquakes, famine, the zika virus, the best laundry detergent, etc. What we will not do is spend the evening, and tomorrow, talking about HIM. I know all about HIM, and I’m not interested.
More importantly, I no longer feel sorry for him, which is what he, and most narcissists, thrive on. They love pity. It is fuel to them.
So tonight I get to practice what I should have been doing all along: building boundaries around my heart. It will be like a castle wall, protecting my heart from those who wish to devour it.
Wish me luck!