Leaving or Staying*

a colorful lifeThe kids were standing at the check-out with the next books in the Percy Jackson series and I was taking in the beautiful quilts on display at our public library.  I didn’t need a book.  I was part way through three different books and I knew I didn’t have the brain space to start something new.

One quilt caught my eye.  It was suspended over the “New” books section, so I walked over to get a closer look.  The quilter had a great sense of which colors go well together – purples and teals – and a good eye for negative space, which isn’t easy to do in a quilt.  I turned to meet up with Will and Jen and I noticed the book.  It jumped out at me.  It was probably the word – narcissist – that caught my attention.

I could find that word in a haystack.

I’d been thinking that I’m all done with reading about narcissism.  Time to move on.  I’ve learned enough.  But… the title intrigued me.  It referred to my role in these relationships with narcissists.

Perhaps I have more work to do.


I breezed through the first 90 pages nodding my head, sometimes exclaiming out loud and actually laughing at how I could perpetuate the treatment I’d been receiving.  (It took me several years to get to this point where I can laugh.  Trust me.)

Sometimes I’d slam the book shut and be pissed at how long I’d continued to care in such a fruitless, waste-of-time relationship.


My big takeaways from the book are:

  • Keep healthy boundaries front and center.
  • Don’t personalize any verbal attacks – they are about them.
  • It is perfectly fine to have a fulfilled life that isn’t centered around caring for a mentally unstable individual.


Here are some quotes from the book that really hit home:


“… over time, you find yourself giving up on friendships and social events.  The N wants to be the sole focus of your energy.  Even managing the needs of the children can become secondary to meeting the N’s needs.  Have you ever just dropped into bed at night exhausted and wonder, Is this all there is?”

Hell, YES!


“If you can accept that the N is prone to overworking; seeks a lot of attention from others; focuses almost entirely on only his or her needs, wants, and feelings; and must be in control of the money, then you may be able to figure out a viable relationship arrangement.”

That will never meet my definition of a “viable relationship arrangement”.


“You may need to continually remind yourself that the N has little or no interest in what you think, what you are doing, what you want… 

If you want …  someone to listen and really understand what you’re going through…  look for an emotionally healthy person.”

To which I must shout, “So why would you stay in such a relationship?!”



Anyway, I connected with many of the author’s points.  A lot of this stuff I already knew, but apparently I do need to keep re-reading books on narcissism depending on how complacent I’ve allowed myself to get, or whether there are any new issues that warrant a wake-up call.


I also found a few tips to share with Will and Jen on how to stop being the caretaker for their dad.  I learned, too, about my own caretaker tendencies, and how NOT to fall into that role again in future relationships.


Part of me enjoys reading one more book that confirms all my reasons for leaving.

And now back to what I was previously engrossed in…  oh… yummy…

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, and

A World Lit Only by Fire by William Manchester, and

The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan, and I’m still working my way through….

So little time.



* A chapter title from Margalis Fjelstad’s Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist – How to End the Drama and Get on With Life.

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  1. Looks like I may be purchasing the book you spoke of at some point. I’m at the point where I’m throwing myself into bed exhausted at night, but only some of that has to do with the N’s influence. Most of it is the Winter & its heinous influence over me. Another chunk is the N’s fault as her son (my husband) is horrid at taking care of himself & seems to expect me to do it. Which doesn’t happen anymore because I’m too busy trying to care of myself & take care of the kids. Winter brings out the absolute GRUMP in me & I try to keep as much of that from the kids as possible, but it’s very hard.

    Deborah Harkness does a Fabulous job creating the world inside A Discovery of Witches and I loved reading it, but once her couple got together they drove me nuts. Pretty sure that’s because of my own issues and not her writing LOL.

  2. Jenn,

    Always great to see you here.

    I can relate about the winter doldrums. If it weren’t for our wood stove, good books and occasional trips to the ski hill, I’d have moved south already. It’s the lack of light for me. We have blue skies and sun most of the winter, so that helps.

    Weird… I’m down to thirty pages left on Witches and I find myself getting increasingly irritated. It wasn’t until I read your comment that I figured out why – it’s Matthew’s need to control. That’s clearly about my history with the N, and not her writing.

  3. Jesse,

    It’s the lack of light for me, also. It really wasn’t terrible until we moved to Virginia and it got dark SO BLOODY EARLY. But the last 4.5 years have been really rough with the loss of light so early in the day. And our dog’s passing put a double whammy on me. On a good note I can now think of her without bursting into copious tears and I’m hoping in the next few weeks will be able to go through pictures of her to put onto her Urn.

    Girl I am so glad that I”m not the only one who got irritated by Matthew. Was clenching my teeth every time I read them together by the end of the book & that’s the main reason I never picked up the second. It’s a shame as I really loved Ms. Harkness’ writing style, but can’t deal with that relationship.

  4. Jenn,

    I finished the book last night and Jen said, “Did ya like it? Is there another in the series?”

    I said, “Yep. I liked it, but I’m gonna move on to something else.” I lived narcissism, I don’t need to read it all the time.

    Sorry about your dog’s passing. That’s a tough one that takes some time to heal.

    Maybe some of our wind will blow some sunshine your way. It’s trying hard enough. ;)

  5. ” I lived narcissism, I don’t need to read it all the time.”
    amen to that!

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