Things That Can Be Fixed

Jenny fixes a too gaudy Barbie dress by altering it.  She cuts off the flouncy sleeves and shortens the train.  She might use tape or thread or buttons, but she knows she can fix it.  She’ll even fix Barbie’s hair with snips here and there.

When the wheels don’t spin fast enough on his skateboard, Will can fix that problem by cleaning the bearings.

I can fix a too-thin sauce in a batch of  Chicken and Broccoli Fettuccine by letting the sauce soak into the pasta a bit before serving.

I fix the toilet when it makes that whistling sound.  Will fixes the squeaky hinge on the art supply cupboard.  Jen fixes a meal of flowers and herbs for her imaginary pony.

Fixing is what we do.  Fixing is in our blood.


When the dad visits start going downhill – again – our first instinct is to fix that, too.

I say, “I’ll send him an email and tell him how he hurt your feelings.”

Will says, “I’ll send a text and tell him we want to do visits at our house.”

Jen says, “It would fix everything if we didn’t have to go over there any more.”

Then I get the grand idea to call Mark.  When he answers I say, “Listen, Jenny is crying after tonight’s visit.  What can we do differently to make her more comfortable.”

He serves up another word salad, and I say, “Nevermind. “

I hang up and look at the kids.  Will shakes his head.  Jenny grabs another Kleenex.

Again, we have forgotten that this can’t be fixed.  Again we have tried and failed.

We say a couple choice words.  Take a deep breath and remind each other to let it out, and when Will doesn’t exhale and his face turns red, we start laughing.

We settle into another chat about how we can only change ourselves.  We comment about how we’ve been down this road so many times that we’ve memorized the terrain and we could walk blind-folded.

We can fix our stuff.

We can’t fix dad.  We can’t fix the visits.

We will remember that there are some things we can fix, and others we can’t.


When I replay that evening’s frustrations, I see – with clarity – what it is I am supposed to do in these situations.

There is only one thing I can do, but I will do it well.

I will tie a bandana across my mouth to keep from saying what I know I can’t do.

I will sit on my hands to prevent useless emailing, texting or phone calls.

When the kids walk in the door after a visit, I will let them be.  They will spew.  They may cry.  They might stomp around and suggest they are never going there again.

I will let them say what they need to say.

I will listen.

I will be calm and quiet and safe.

When they flop down on the couch in deep sighs, with nothing left to say, I will take off the bandana.

I will get up off my hands and hug them.

I will tell them I love them.

Then, I will announce that I am going to make a cup of Earl Grey and search for something that I can fix.

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  1. You are amazing. That’s all.

  2. Z,


    love you ;)

  3. There is a sort of calm with knowing that you can’t fix it. It allows you to move on from it quicker. I am sure that you have said that over and over, but it is so true.

    Thank you for doing what you do. Getting it out there. Healing, helping….

    Love you! Have a great weekend!

  4. Z,

    So here’s something wonderful, and a testament to the role you play here. < No pressure, tho'. ;) >

    In today’s post, I meant to include this quote:

    In acceptance there is peace.

    But I forgot. So, thank you for reminding me.

    You know… I came out of the back hall (after the incident I wrote about) and I said to Jen and Will, “You guys, it is so much easier when we realize we can’t fix it. Nothing is expected of us. We don’t have to tax our brains to find a solution. It is what it is.”

    They didn’t get it right away.

    I’m confident they will.

  5. I am learning this too! You describe it so clearly.

    Your two are blessed to have you. Thanks for expressing the heaviness of what it means for kids to have a N father. It is so hard not to be able to make things better.

    I learned long ago fewer the words the better in dealing with a N.

    Have a wonderful, happy, peaceful weekend!

  6. Well, that must be why I was possessed to post it. I was sure that you had just said it…perhaps in another thread…and I didn’t want to be redundant, but another voice said to hit submit.

    That quote is so true. Inner peace is transcendent. I can’t help but think it one of the biggest life lessons.

  7. Z,

    That kind of thing – you feeling the need to post something that helps – even if your rational mind thinks it has been posted before….

    That’s the universe nudging you to do something that helps.

    That’s what drives things.

    Because we all need to hear things again and again. Sometimes in a different way. But we need to hear it at the right time.

    p.s. I think the only time I posted that quote was on Twitter. But it is SO worth repeating.

  8. Lynn,

    I know you know.

    That’s what makes me want to spend a long weekend with all of you.

    Hugs to your kids.

    I wanna meet ’em some day.

  9. Zaira posted this : There is a sort of calm with knowing that you can’t fix it. It allows you to move on from it quicker. I am sure that you have said that over and over, but it is so true – & I just wanted to send out Huge Hugs to all the Thrivers who can do this. I haven’t quite gotten to the point where I can be calm about it yet, but I’ll get there eventually.

  10. Jenn,

    Speaking for myself…

    It’s a little like I imagine surfing would be …

    Sometimes you’re all hanging there and going with the flow and feeling one with everything and in the zone….

    And then…. you’re dumped off the board.

    You’ll get there.

    But I don’t think it’s a continual phase. For me, it’s a moment in time, but they collect into bigger chunks of time, where you can put your feet up and really enjoy.

    Hang in there…

    In the meantime, you’re always welcome along for the ride. ;)

  11. Jenn, you will get there. When it all comes to a head and you can see how ridiculous it is…you can step back and see it in another light. Sometimes I can do it and sometimes not. It has been almost 3 years. I am getting there.

  12. Jesse,

    I would love that too! Someday it just might happen! Hugs to you and yours too!

    One more word on the “letting go” process. I have found that I do better when I remind myself to stop expecting “normal” from a man who is incapable of “normal” human emotion and empathy. We all want to live by the golden rule and think others do or will too–but that is not the case.

    The best thing we can do for our kids is provide them a safe, peaceful, and loving home and remind them the hurt they feel from a N parent is real, it is not right, and it is not their fault or doing.

    I hope you are having a fun weekend! Be kind to yourself!

  13. Isn’t that the hardest thing?? Sooooo maddening! It’s the thing I struggle with the most, the idea that I somehow have the power to change or fix another person. In a way, with my Narcissistic friend, it was what kept our relationship going! I was sure that setting a good example, being the bigger person, or unconditional love was going to make her “see.” Sometimes she’d act like she got it, she’d apologize, or shockingly do something kind…. later I realized that it was just her way of snapping me back in, like a yo-yo.

    My mantra lately is “I can’t change her, I can’t “fix” her. I can only work on, I can only change, I can only “fix” myself.” And I really don’t want to be “fixed,” just improved! I’m really coming to terms lately with the fact that I cant’t change her refusing to respect my boundaries, her refusing to leave me alone. It’s blatantly disrespectful on her part, she’s trying to cram herself down my throat, and it just makes me LIVID. All I can try to do is rise above it, keep up with “no contact” and it’s soooooo hard! I really just want to sink right down to her immature level and tell her off! But it would be about a mile backwards in my own progress, so I guess i’m just sort of white-knuckling it now. Until I get more at peace with the fact that nothing i do or say will make a difference.

    It’s so difficult with Ns, I think because the standards we set for ourselves don’t apply to them. They don’t seem to think *ANY* “rules” or standards, or just simple human decency should apply to them. So appallingly true when they are in relation to their own children, innocent kids that MOST certainly have never done anything “bad” to deserve such sick treatment.

    I think you ladies are amazing. By teaching your kids about Narcissism, you are teaching them some extremely valuable skills that will only serve them well later in life. A lot of the things that you’re teaching them, are things that i really wish i’d learned as a child… It certainly would have made me stronger and wiser.

    There is a sense that ACTION is what it takes to change things. But, I have found in my situation that INACTION is really making the biggest impact. All I can do is just to surrender, not to abusive treatment, but to knowing that I only have control over one person.

    big hugs to all, NM

  14. Lynn,

    Very interesting… because I often find myself saying – to myself and those close to me – “Well… what can we expect, he isn’t normal.”

    And yet…

    Because I am so schooled in doubting myself, every once in awhile I wonder if I am mistaken.

    I don’t wonder that as much any more, but still….

  15. NM,

    As I was reading your comment I was thinking about what we are taught – as kids – about how to get along. We are taught to treat others as we would want to be treated. We don’t get a lot of instruction on dealing with difficult personalities. (That being said, there’s a lot of time spent discussing bullying in today’s schools, and I’m here to say that any kid raised by a narcissist is an expert on how to deal with bullies.)

    We become adults and we know how to share and play nice and take turns, but what the heck do we really know about getting along with irrational types. By default, we apply what we know about dealing with rational folks.

    None of those things apply to Ns and we are left grasping at straws and wondering if there is something wrong with us.

    We are taught well – how to get along – when we are young, and it’s hard to stray from those teachings. It’s uncomfortable.

    I played hard today with my two and their “normal” cousins and relatives. ;)

    My gut tells me we ought to spend time with those who feel good to be around, and quit investing ANY time with those who make us feel bad about who we are.

  16. Absolutely, and particularly if you’re a “pleaser” and you are giving, you just keep doing the “right” things, hoping that someday they will work! I used to hope that me walking away from my friendship would inspire my friend to change. Now, I hope that if she ever “gets it” (from what I understand, highly unlikely with Ns, but if she does…) she will not correlate the change with what I did/didn’t do. I am fully convinced, through this journey, real change can only happen if it’s self-motivated! Not motivated by the false self/ego of an N, but of a real self who has tried everything that didn’t work, failed, & now wants to heal.

  17. Speaking of bullies, my oldest and I had a long talk about his childhood and being bullied. He was bullied at school (he never told me until the other day) and then bullied at home by my ex. His defense mechanism? Apathy….if you don’t care about anything, no one can hurt you when they take it away. He has been so apathetic that it has affected every part of who he is and now he doesn’t know how to move forward into adulthood. He WANTS to, so desperately bad, but has a hard time dealing with anything negative. Some people think he is making excuses, but they can’t understand how deeply a N can affect your psyche. We are almost 3 years out from leaving the N and he is just now opening up about this. At least he is talking! And I realized that because I have done work of my own on knowing NPD, I am the only one that can really help him. He will be ok, I am sure of it, but we have a lot of talking to do. I am starting to look at PTSD and Narcissism. I hate to think it has that effect on someone, but in certain situations, I feel it creep up from the inside triggering my fight or flight. And in my son’s reactions, I know it is there. He has learned on his own that standing up to a bully is not as scary as it seems. A lot of time they back down, sometimes they apologize, but always you feel better about defending yourself. Now, the hard part is rising from defeat.

  18. NM,

    Exactly! I still laugh at my attempts to gently talk to my ex about narcissism. He laughed at me and said, “You are the narcissist. The problems are all yours. I am fine.”

  19. Z,

    First of all… I wish you and your oldest all the best kinds of things for a happy, productive future. God, I’m so glad he can benefit from your knowledge on this NPD stuff.

    Just this week I was having a long chat with a close friend about bullying and how to help kids deal. He made an excellent point about being a “tough guy” vs. a bully. The tough guy doesn’t start anything, but he’s not afraid to stick up for himself and finish it, if necessary. I desperately want my two to learn that. It’s beyond difficult to grasp the concept that you have to stand up to your dad and defend yourself. Again… not something we often have to teach our kids – but in our situations, it’s imperative.

    I would add that sometimes it helps to remember that the bully is acting from their own hurts and insecurities. Like having to speak in front of a group and visualizing the audience in their underwear – ie. the bully doesn’t seem as threatening if you remember they have a big pile of issues, too.

    I don’t have intimate experience with PTSD, but I do know the stresses caused by NPD. I would guess there’s a strong link between the two.

    I have seen the apathy in my ex’s older kids. I have also seen that they seem to make progress when they discover/focus on what it is that they are passionate about. That seems to bring them out of the apathetic state. However, that being said, when you are REALLY apathetic, it’s hard to care about anything, let alone discover your passions.

    Does your oldest know what his spark is? The thing that jazzes him? The thing he wants to do more than anything else?

  20. That’s it! He needs to understand WHY the ex is the way he is to disempower him. I bought him a book for children of narcissistic parents. It is good…but getting a 19 year old to read a self help book is impossible. So, I will read it, formulate the lesson for the week and we will talk.

    It is funny you say that about him finding what he is passionate about because it is exactly what his psychiatrist said. He has some things he is passionate about and could be future goals, but he needs a more immediate fix to be able to see into the future. I suggested to him the other day that he should think about working for the campaigns. You should hear him talk about politics…even I want to vote for Ron Paul…lol…and we live in the perfect place. He didn’t even know that those types of jobs existed. So, he has some things to think about and I have some stimulating to do, but now feels better than the panic that he can’t get it together.

  21. Z,

    Again, he’s SO lucky to have you. I’m glad he’s willing to talk with you – that says volumes about you and your relationship with him.

    Not to get on the homeschool vs public school thing but THE MAIN reason I pulled my kids out of public school was because I could see that their sparks were being extinguished. They didn’t have the time to follow the things they loved most, and I viewed those things – (combined with support and love from family and friends) as the lifeline that would get them through this NPD stuff.

    Whether it’s skateboarding, drawing, reading, painting, skiing whatever they need/want to do when they get out of bed in the morning, they need the space to do that in order to offset the negative.

    Mark’s older kids did not have that. All their passions and interests were systematically ignored and denied.

  22. Thanks. We do have a good relationship. I blame myself a lot for his struggles, but he doesn’t at all and in turn helps me too.

    For those same reasons you chose homeschool, I considered Montessori. Naively, I thought it may have made it harder for him to integrate to high school later. I look back and think…coulda, woulda, shoulda. Well, we just move forward. Onward and upward!

  23. Z,

    Yep, as long as we keep moving. ;)

  24. While we have been blessed enough to have a wonderful, uplifting school here that has been great for my kids, I’ve been thinking about your comments. We were very unimpressed with the middle school my oldest would have headed to soon and were SO thrilled to get him enrolled in a charter school that’s known for being really hands on. Now we are all so excited for next year! Isn’t it wonderful that we live in a time where there are so many options? Z, I know your son will be ok. He will be a Thriver, too! He’s on a journey of understanding that will strengthen him far more than that of an average person of his age. It’s funny you used the word “bullies,” Jesse. That’s what my mom has said about my N for years. Bullies (whether narcissistic or low-self-esteem types) are everywhere! And learning to cope with & set boundaries with these type of people has eaten away at much of my adult life.

    My goal with my own boys has become: respect them, honor them, and teach them how to deal with difficult people, and set limits so they’ll know how to for themselves.

    I read a book last year that was all about the epidemic of Narcissism. It was
    about how our society (American society) is helping to foster Narcissism. It was kind of scary to me. Maybe I can’t change the world’s views, but I’ll do my damnedest to make sure my own kids are whole, loving, and healthy. You, my friends, are amazing examples of how to do just that.


  25. NM,

    Your boys are blessed.

    I remember when I took my two out of public school, a few folks asked me, “How will they learn to deal with difficult personalities?” I wouldn’t answer right away. They’d wait for my response and then they’d say, “Oh, nevermind. They’ve learned plenty from their dad.”

    Would you share the title of the book you read?

    Have a great week! ;)

  26. As I read the comments, I am struck with the humor and brightness all of you have–a spirit that radiates. I continue to be uplifted by your comments–thank you!

    Dealing with a N takes so much energy–I am hopeful that as we all go forward our energy can be used in more positive ways.

    Less is always more–when dealing with a N. It is always better–fewer words–fewer thoughts–less emotion. It is much easier said than done–but I am learning to focus less on what he might do and what he has done and focus more on the potential for happiness in a life less dominated by a N.

    My kids–I hope are learning as I am learning–that it is never okay to allow someone to treat you badly.

    I wish all of you peace!

  27. The book is called “The Narcissism Epidemic.” another good one is “freeing yourself from the narcissist in your life.” a **really** stellar one is “Seeing My Path” ;)

    Hugs, NM

  28. Lynn,

    As NM said previously, all of our kids are stronger because of what the N brings to their lives, just as we are. I have put a lot of faith in that. I want to believe that there is a reason for all of us to have struggled with this.

    Just this very morning I was walking through my little house, head buzzing with the day’s agenda – lessons to carry out, a post to write, kitty litter to sweep up and laundry to start – and I was hit with a wave of peace. The peace comes from not having to deal with the N today – no dad visit. That means Jen won’t be made fun of for never zipping up her coat, and Will won’t be teased for the way he eats. We can happily put the negative aside.

    It’s going to be a great day.

    I wish the same for you. ;)

  29. NM,

    Thanks for that. You are a dear. ;)

  30. I love the photograph of Barbie on the skateboard..there is something in the composition that reminds me of the feeling in the writing which I recognize. Another crisp and clear and transparent observation. I hope you are loving your vacation! :)

  31. Elizabeth,

    Thank you. Jenny helps me stage the photos.

    We had a wonderful trip.

    We are trying desperately not to whine about leaving the sunny fun behind.

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