Saturday, August 23, 2008

Truth + Obituary = Making People Squirm

It's superstitiously considered bad form to speak ill of the dead. I say 'superstitiously' because people act like the dead will have their revenge. Maybe it is just that people think it makes the person who does speak ill of the dead look bad themselves. That is true only if by speaking ill they are lying. But when someone dares to speak the truth of the dead, and that truth reflects poorly on the dead, then it is the dead person's fault not the speaker's fault.

In case you've missed it there has been a bit of a bruhaha over the obituary for Dolores Aguilar. It first appeared in the Vallejo Times-Herald. It was yanked rather quickly by that paper but not before Aguilar's obit was picked up by the, an online newspaper from Aguilar's home town, San Francisco. Then the rumors started to fly about how the obit was a hoax. Both SFist and a journalist from did their research and were able to confirm the obit's authenticity.

The woman who wrote the obit was a daughter of Dolores Aguilar, one of eight children, Virginia Brown. She describes how growing up with her mother meant being "unfed, poorly clothed and completely terrorized". She hints at the divisions formed in the family. She admits her mother presented a respectable face to the world, but how: "She was a chameleon. She could make outsiders see her in any way that she wanted while behind closed doors she would beat at least one of us every day..." This is not the behavior of a mentally ill person. This is the behavior of an evil person. It takes awareness and calculation to only pick on your victims out of sight of the observance of those who would hold you accountable. This blog has dealt with this aspect of the malignant narcissist and how they know what they are doing is wrong and therefore are careful to hide what they do.

The daughter of Dolores Aguilar unwittingly describes a malignantly narcissistic mother. So I want to bring to your attention the obit that such an evil mother deserves. Virginia Brown, the brave daughter who flaunted convention, dared to speak the truth. I applaud her for it. I don't believe it makes her look small. She is bravely saying the truth and validating the experiences of all her family members. I think it is hugely significant that:

Brown wrote the piece alone but has yet to hear any disagreement from the family members who have seen it in the three days since it ran in her mother's hometown. Nor has the paper received any. (source)

I really think this is further proof of the rightness of Brown's honesty. She wasn't speaking ill of the dead. She was speaking the truth. That the truth is ugly is no ones fault but the dead Dolores Aguilar.

When I contemplate the further damage to the family of Dolores Aguilar a standard obit would inflict, I am able to recognize what a good and decent person Virginia Brown is. She did what was right by her living family by not buckling to what society believes is right by the dead.

Click here for the link to the obit when it was first picked up by SFist.

SFist ran their update here.

For the article by John Bogert, click here.

Now, in order to help preserve this obituary for future readers of this blog I'm going to copy it below. I don't know how long before the links above go dead so I am trying to insure that the heart of this post is recorded for posterity. This is likely an obit that many of us could write for our own mothers.

An homage to the evil mother:

"Dolores Aguilar, born in 1929 in New Mexico, left us on Aug. 7, 2008. Dolores had no hobbies, made no contribution to society and rarely shared a kind word or deed in her life. I speak for the majority of her family when I say her presence will not be missed by many, very few tears will be shed and there will be no lamenting over her passing.

"Her family will remember Dolores and amongst ourselves we will remember her in our own way, which were mostly sad and troubling times throughout the years. We may have some fond memories of her and perhaps we will think of those times, too. But I truly believe at the end of the day all of us will really only miss what we never had, a good and kind mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. I hope she is finally at peace with herself. As for the rest of us left behind, I hope this is the beginning of a time of healing and learning to be a family again.

"There will be no service, no prayers and no closure for the family she spent a lifetime tearing apart. We cannot come together in the end to see to it that her grandchildren and great-grandchildren can say their goodbyes. So I say here for all of us, goodbye Mom."

Considering the scope of abuse and damage that Dolores inflicted I find this obit remarkably restrained. Another testament to its honesty. It is a study in understatement while refusing to praise an evil woman. I hope that Virginia Brown and her siblings and extended family find the peace they have craved now that the family tyrant is gone. I admire Virginia's courage to speak the truth more than I can ably express. She has validated not just her own family's experience, but mine. God bless you, Virginia Brown and family. Who cares whether or not Dolores is resting in peace. It is her family that deserves rest and peace.

[Icon credit]

Friday, August 22, 2008

Solitude and Loneliness -- Two States of Being

I am convinced that part of becoming maturely healthy in heart and mind is learning to be copacetic with being alone. There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. The two are not necessarily the same. Let me wax wordy to try to make this point. I'll likely end up making other points along the way, and with some luck I might even make some good ones. Does this post mean I've come out of hiatus? Unclear. Stay tuned. It was the comments of a reader on an old post that spurred this one...who knows when the next spate of wordiness will strike. Creativity can't be scheduled. Ack. I flatter myself.

It is in solitude that we are better able to take a good hard look at ourselves. It also makes a better environment for us to learn to stretch ourselves and grow in ways we haven't yet.

Being alone can be used by you as a preparation time for learning to be the kind of person a healthy person would want to be with. Too often we fall back into what is familiar and end up stunting our personal growth and wasting more precious time on another bad relationship. Until we're willing to make ourselves uncomfortable by not letting ourselves stay stuck in the familiar we won't grow because the familiar is also the bad. The familiar is "same old, same old". "Same old" is unacceptable. You've come to see that by now.

When you've become accustomed to bad relationships so that they are the ones that feel "right" and "normal" then it is a sign that you need to be alone for awhile. Maybe a good long while. Take stock. Make different choices. Push outside your comfort zones. If you've been raised by a malignant narcissist and have continued up to now in relationships with narcissists then you're not used to being comfortable when you're in a healthy place. You need to teach yourself to be comfortable with healthy and to learn to be uncomfortable with staying in the unhealthy. Solitude could be your best teacher. Your perceptions have been turned upside down and inside out by narcissists. Time to step back and calibrate your compass to true north. That means you need to learn how to make the 'familiar, but bad' be repulsive to you and not the rather attractive and comfortable thing it has been to now.

Human nature isn't naturally attracted to change. We tend to fear it. This is why we so often boomerang back into bad relationships; they are what we know so we feel a degree of security by sticking with what we know. This is why I know that by telling you to break out of the familiar I am asking you to let go of your security blanket. This is why I know that you will have to feel uncomfortable for awhile before you can get your head into a healthier place. You're going to have to let go of the familiar if you're going to break out of bad patterns.

You can learn that alone doesn't have to be lonely. There are always ways to interact with the world without having to be in an intimate friendship or relationship with someone which will eliminate loneliness while being alone. Alone time is a very good place to learn some good life lessons, unlearn the bad ones, and get comfortable hanging out with you. When you are comfortable in your own skin you'll find that others (who are also comfortable within their own skin) will be attracted to you. You'll also learn that people who don't like you because you are comfortable about yourself are exactly the people you don't want around. Narcissists are attracted to those who are all hung up on one neuroticism or another. They need our hang-ups to manipulate us with. This doesn't mean we need to be perfect. It means we know where we aren't perfect but also refuse to abuse ourselves because of it.

We must learn to define perfection differently too. Perfectly content is a much better state of mind than the constant pursuit of a state of perfect which doesn't exist in this world. In Philippians chapter four Paul gives a formula which is the key that opens the door to true peace of mind: "for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content..." And isn't peace of mind what we really crave?

Let me present this idea: human beings are so imperfect we are incapable of coming up with an accurate definition of what perfection even is. We wouldn't likely recognize perfection even if it was standing right in front of us. Christians: consider Christ. He was perfect yet the religious leaders perceived him to be the son of a devil. This is why I don't believe we should be pursuing our likely-to-be screwed up versions of perfection. Just drop it. You're wasting time.

Narcissists harangue themselves with a pursuit of some kind of superficial perfection (as they've defined perfection; it's always a subjective definition related to appearances not substance). We can distance ourselves from the narcissist's perverted definitions and world view if we drop the need to be perceived by ourselves or others as perfect. The narcissist insists we've failed (to be perfect) when we've made them angry, or when we didn't give them what they want in any other way. This is a perverted way of defining ourselves, the world and the word perfect. Because some part of us believes we need to be perfect the narcissist can control us by telling us we've failed to be perfect. The narcissist believes that perception is perfection. Did you swallow this lie? Convincing yourself or others that you've got it all together is quite separate from really, truly having it all together. Don't fall for the deception that appearances are reality. This is the realm where the narcissist dwells. They create the stage, set the lights to shine on their good side, bring the supporting actors on the set to mouth the script, and then pull off a masterful performance of looking like they are something they aren't. When she manages to fool the audience the narcissist can continue her pretense that she is perfect.

Drop the concept of perfect and move on to something more useful. When we're wrapped up in pursuing 'perfect' we are self-focused and myopic. We miss the bigger picture. We tend to trample on other people. We become more selfish! Even the well-intentioned pursuit of perfection gets trapped in these pit-falls. Remember that you likely wouldn't recognize perfection even if it walked up and said "hi" to you. You just end up chasing after illusions and miss the really good things that life does offer.

Learning to be okay with being alone, learning to create some space of time where you have to live quietly with yourself, this is the place where you can learn some important truths. If you find yourself alone right now see it for the opportunity it is. Don't beat yourself up like you're some kind of failure because you're alone. That's a waste of time in addition to not being true. Seize this period of time between relationships as the golden opportunity it is. If you have been wrapped up in horrible relationships with a parade of narcissists up to now then your being alone right now is a VICTORY. You have made progress! Quit beating yourself up for a good thing. You waste time, energy and opportunity with this negative thinking. And it's boring. You've come a long way, baby. Give yourself a high-five and enthusiastically approach this new (to you) state of being as your chance to get your head screwed on right.

Malignant narcissists are, without exception, cases of 'arrested development'. Stuck at the emotional and moral level of a six year old they demand the people in their lives submit to their sucky rules and temper tantrums. This has an effect on us. We, too, are somewhat emotionally stuck in varying degrees of arrested development because we've adopted many of the narcissist's views on things. Taking the space and the time for ourselves to finish growing ourselves up is essential for moving into healthy relationships in the future. Maturity includes learning when to kick yourself in your own ass to get yourself moving and knowing when to give yourself a break. Maturity includes the ability to look at yourself and others more objectively, making room for mistakes, but expecting decency from yourself and others.

Don't be afraid of being alone if that is where you're at now. There is a lot of important work you can do with this space of alone time you've been given. Much creativity has been borne of solitude. And remember that being alone and being lonely are not synonymous states of being. Not all people who are alone are lonely. And many people in relationships are lonely. My experience has taught me that there is no greater loneliness than that which happens when you're in a bad relationship. It is better to be lonely and alone than lonely while supposedly "with" someone. So, while we often think that being alone is a sentence to loneliness the truth is that there are lonelier places in this world than aloneness. The loneliest place to be is in a relationship with someone who sucks you dry.

“Language... has created the word "loneliness" to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word "solitude" to express the glory of being alone.” Paul Tillich

How to Relax...A Pictorial

First, make sure it is in the middle of the day. You're not truly relaxing unless your slacking off on a perfect summer day.

Next, find that unmade bed. You know the one...the bed you didn't make because you were relaxing earlier in the day.

Stretch out in your favorite position, like this:

Okay. This last part is really important. Ignore the idiot with the camera and calmly close your eyes preparatory to the nice long nap you're going to take:

Oh, yeah. Dat's it. Floating in the zone.

If you did it right you'll look like this an hour later:

These helpful de-stressing tips are brought to you by the Narcissist's Suck mascot, Sherbie. If you're lucky he'll grace you with more helpful tips in the future. Just remember: it's all about the naps. Zen, baby, zen.

P.S. If you click on the pics they will give you a more life-like representation of this 22 pound ambulatory hair-ball.