It Is What It Is

The original title for this post was going to be, “The Good, The Bad and Reality”.  I let myself whirl about in another tailspin after receiving a letter from Mark on Wednesday, and then a lovely phone call from him yesterday morning.  When I got off the phone, I felt the messed up stomach that I’d lived with for years.  But more importantly, I felt the walls of our home – our little sanctuary – close in around us.  It’s the way a mouse must feel when caught in one of those “humane” traps.  Those are the traps you get if you want to catch them, but not kill them.  But the problem with those traps is that you forget to check them, so the mouse ends up dying this slow, agonizing death by starvation.

I can think of a handful of times when, after a conversation with Mark, I have felt fear.  I didn’t feel frightened that he might hit me, or throw me against a wall.  Nor have I lost sleep over the possibility of Mark raising a hand to Jen or Will.  I can’t seem to find words to describe the feeling.  It seems like fear.  It feels a bit like hair standing up on the back of my neck.  It isn’t every time I talk to him.  It has happened maybe 6 or 8 times in all the years I’ve known him.  It is a visceral reaction.  It hits me at my very core.  It isn’t based on any kind of logic.

I think.

But there is a sense of panic – like the mouse must feel when he knows that he isn’t going to be set free.

Yesterday I got that panic feeling.  On a whim, I sat down at my computer and in the Google search box I typed, “narcissism and evil”.  I’m not going to link you to what I found.  It’s depressing and frightening.

And it appears to be exactly what we are dealing with.

The first hit was a reference to a conversation between M. Scott Peck, author of The People of the Lie, and Sam Vaknin, author of Malignant Self Love.  The Peck book was suggested to me in a comment from Donna.  I had checked into it, but it freaked me out and I didn’t order it.  I think I was afraid to know what we were really dealing with.

And yesterday, in a desperate attempt at finding more answers, that book crossed my path again.


I’ll backtrack a little.

the good …

Monday was a glorious day full of affirmation and acknowledgment.  I didn’t realize how much I needed to have a professional tell me that my observations were correct, and that I was parenting my kids in the healthiest way I could, given our situation.

Wednesday brought us an opportunity for the kids to be heard.  It was wonderful for them to have a trained adult listen to them, understand how they were struggling in their relationship with their dad, and help them realize that they haven’t been doing anything wrong.

the bad …

Wednesday’s mail brought a letter from Mark.  My initial thought, before even opening the letter was, “Why is he writing to me before we’ve had a chance to continue this counseling process?”  He hadn’t even had his follow-up appointment with the counselor.  In fact, the letter would have been penned before the kids even had their appointment.

In the letter, he accused me of preventing the kids from seeing him.  He suggested that he’d like to pursue a different parenting schedule – perhaps alternating weeks at each home.  Or!  One month at our house, one month at his house.  Like hell!

He asked that I write a letter that put into words just what we expected from him.

How many times must we do this?

I called him after reading the letter.  I left a message that said, “To clarify, I have not been preventing your kids from seeing you.  They DO NOT WANT to see you at this time.  I will pen a letter when I get the chance to do so.”

I assumed that this would stall him until after his follow-up appointment with the counselor – the counselor he had selected.

Thursday morning he calls and says, “Hi, this is Mark (like I don’t f___ing recognize his voice).  Can I talk to the kids?”

WHAT!?  Just how thick is that man’s skull?

I said, “Mark, I left you a message last night.  The kids don’t want to talk to you until after you’ve met with the counselor.”  He said, “Why?”

He actually said, “Why?”

This is where I became more than exasperated.

So that he could hear them, I held the phone out and said, “Guys, do you want to talk to your dad?”  In unison they both said, “NO!”  He heard them.  And he said…

“Why don’t they want to talk to me?”

I said, “Mark, I can’t tape the phone to their hands and make them call you.  I can’t force them to see you.  You don’t believe me when I tell you the reasons why your kids don’t want to see you.  Please talk to the counselor to get her perspec…..”

He interrupted me here and said, “You are using that condescending tone with me.”

I screamed into the phone and said, “Do not call here anymore.  TALK TO YOUR COUNSELOR.”

the reality…

I called my mom in tears.  She saved the day by inviting us up to play wii, card games, have dinner, and generally be distracted.  And she made me cocktails.

When I told the kids we were headed to grandma’s they were thrilled to get out of the house and avoid the phone.  When I told Jenny to get some socks and shoes on, she went to her suitcase to get a pair of socks.  “Why are your socks in your suitcase?”  Through tears, Jenny told me, “Because I want to move.  I don’t want him for a dad.  Why do I have to have him for a dad?”

And we are back to where we were before the good of Monday.

And that is our reality.


And this morning, I read this post by Zen Habits.  I saw that I wouldn’t have upset stomachs, children packing their bags, the need to guzzle cocktails at mom’s, or the desire to hide in bed under the covers, if I could stop perceiving these events as either good or bad.

I knew, going into this counseling business, not to expect any miraculous changes from Mark.  If I looked at everything through a more moderate lens, perhaps I wouldn’t be subjecting us to the emotional swings that come with the labeling of ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

And so I changed the title of this post.

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  1. Interesting stuff. I’m with you all the way on the fear/messed up stomach thing. It’s totally irrational on my part and I feel a bit silly admitting it, but I get that whenever I know my wife is due to come round to pick up the kids, or even when something as nondescript happens, such as her name popping up on my phone with a text message.

    I can never be sure what kind of mood she’ll be in or what she’s going to spring on me next. And that can be pretty scary, given that I’m now starting to find out what she’s capable of. Eek.

    Oh, and I’m also reading the Eckhart Tolle book right now.

  2. I know that feeling… like when I see a car like his. Or I hear a song on the radio that was one of his favs. It’s not a sweet longing. It’s more a sickening feeling.

    Funny… I was just looking at the Eckhart Tolle book on my shelf the other day. Was thinking I should finish it on vacation. And then I discovered the Zen Habits post.

    I guess I better pack the Tolle book. I can’t bring myself to read the Scott Peck book on vacation, but something tells me I can’t avoid it forever.

  3. That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach is shell shock. Your nerves are fried.

    Vacations are good. :)

  4. I think the Universe put that Zen Habits post there for you. Sounds like the lifesaver you needed. That and your mother.

  5. Vacations are good. But… we do have to come back at some point.

  6. Walk away from the book about evil…slowly :o)

  7. Lucy,
    That’s what my gut keeps telling me, too.

  8. I read quite a bit about narcissism and evil. It IS truly frightening. And far far far worse for children (and their moms). It can even be devastating for grown adult people, so I can only imagine what it must be like to be a child of a narcissist.

    My husband’s best friend cut off all contact with him in May 2008. Has never spoken to him since. These 2 grown men (both the same age, born in 1941) used to do everything together. Quad riding, hunting, exploring the back roads of Arizona, building fences, outbuildings, shopping at Home Depot, and atv stores, etc. One day, Bob stopped answering his phone, to my husband, stopped returning phone calls, and locked the gate to his property. He lives on the next street over from our house. I don’t know why, but I can guess. I think he probably got tired of being used and abused.

    Bob and his wife Betty did call me at Christmas this past year – I had sent them a Christmas card. But they didn’t mention my husband. The only mention at all was, they invited me to come see them sometime when they were at their cabin. Bob told me to bypass the usual route to his cabin, “to avoid all the BAD MEMORIES”.

    Narcissists hurt everyone eventually. Bob and my husband had a friendship of about 8 years.

    I only wish that you could avoid all contact with your ex-husband. My heart goes out to you and the kids. I am sure it is very very hard. Keep the wine, coffee, handy. I admire you for your many efforts to protect your children. They are indeed so lucky to have you for their mom.

    Love, Phyllis

  9. Several times I’ve heard off-handed comments from Mark’s few friends that they often feel that he only calls when he needs something.


    That comment above really is from Phyllis. I wanted to figure out how to delete my pic, but I really ought to be packing right now.

    Pretend the pic is a pleasing shot of Phyllis, sipping a milk shake, with her leg up, recuperating from surgery. She’s smiling because there will be little or no pain.

  10. Yes, you can put anything at all that I write to you on the blog. I am about 100% sure that no one that I know would ever read it — but even if they did, that is ok. Some “secrets” are better not hidden.

    Since I have read a little bit about “The People of the Lie”, I have also read some of Lisa E Scott’s comments about narcissism. They are very helpful to me. And I only found that because you had “googled” narcissism and evil. Narcissism is indeed scary, but far worse if children are involved. It is bad enough for an adult. It is one thing to say “absolutely no contact” … but what about children? I sure wish that I knew the answer. And of course there are all kinds of laws involved, too. I mean laws about visitation. So confusing.

    I hope counseling goes well.

  11. Phyllis,

    I changed names and deleted specific info to your location.

    Thank you, so much, for sharing with us. It helps to further illustrate just how life is with a narcissist.

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