When gifted a glimpse into another’s soul hold it as treasure, remember its contours and magnify the beauty you find there. The whispers shared between souls are beyond any language; resplendent sound imbued with the light that forms us. Our cells speak. The knowing, the understanding simple, if heart and mind opens. The whole becomes stronger, more substantial and the ripples of knowing become wave after wave of powerful memory, holding past, present and future. I close my eyes beneath the great ocean of distant suns and open my heart to song. A voice heard but not heard as it cherishes life. The ground shakes beneath me as I worship in an empty temple, for a people long gone, but I know the souls still live I glimpse them now and then and choose to magnify the beauty within.
I have a friend who greatly dislikes the use of the word ‘interesting’. He sees it as loaded but empty; it is used when people mean all manner of other things much more consequential that they cannot quite bring themselves to share, or are unable to express. I must say I agree with him and in saying so: today I had an interesting day.
This morning I wordlessly gave the right of way at a difficult driving spot to my ex-husband. It is a place I drive past daily. A place where each day I decide based on traffic and the time whether I will allow passage of the other vehicle (it is a spot where they do not have right of way and in heavy traffic will never move without polite drivers making way) to go before me. Today my ex was the driver and he knew damn well that I was the other driver and that I was giving him right of way. He took this opportunity to pause willfully and smile inanely. These were not my thoughts at the time but words I put in place now, after the fact. At the time I was thinking that it is about time that in this small town that he take a gesture of polite willingness as a ‘gesture of polite willingness’ nothing more nothing less; nada más nada menos. I am thinking ‘surely by now we can co-exist in this town without malice or any deep meaning hidden in random interactions’. He milked it. He paused too long; I had to indicate twice for him to take the opportunity, he smiled ruefully and gave me that look I recognize as ‘wistful love’. How sweet. Eventually he drove on and allowed me, and the rest of the traffic, to continue driving.
My day progressed. At lunchtime when I returned to work I see his vehicle is parked very close to my office. Time for the ‘yuck’ moment, the sinking feeling, the arrival of anxiety. This man has stalked me, bullied me, controlled me, manipulated me, was seriously addicted to pornography, was abusive and only ever loved his own reflection in me. I felt stupid for having thought briefly for a moment this morning that it was okay to feel good about him, okay to remember that I loved him once. He can’t help himself. Anytime we incidentally see one another here he is at my work place lurking, leaving things behind that get handed into me, as he well knows they do, and I have to decide what to do about it. Again and again I go through the agony of weighing up what ‘normal’ people do in these situations. If I engage the usual process is the unfolding of email interaction that is laced with the taint of all the aforementioned traits and a ‘backslide’ for me into deep anxiety. Unfortunately clinical narcissists do not come with user manuals.
Today however, I did not engage. I did not allow him to have any kind of power over me. I acknowledged that he was nearby and vocalized that this was reasonable. I did not allow his proximity to terrify me. I forgot all about it until I drove home. I didn’t feel the need to inform my trusted colleagues that there was a bogey on site. If there is one thing I have learned in the past few years it is that it is up to me how I respond to his presence. I am no longer in any danger, he has no power over me, and he never will again. I have learnt what the correct salutation towards a clinical narcissist is: do not engage. Regardless of that deep hook that is still somehow there in your soul do not engage, do not give a millimeter, or yard, or ounce, or quarter, or moment, or glimpse EVER. You must be a stone wall regardless of what you feel inside. Because any slip and that hook is well and truly back in.
I have been thinking on what I have learned from my ten year relationship with a clinical narcissist lately simply because I have two beautiful women whom I love dearly in my life that have both found themselves dealing with what they both recognise as a lesser version of this type of personality. They are both very aware, to the extent they can be, of what I went through and are asking for my help. I tried very hard to make my marriage work. I did everything I could. I left three times but was committed, until I could no longer cope, to making it work. I have talked briefly recently about how bad it got, I won’t go there again in this post. Now because of these beautiful women who have to have contact, through shared custody of children, with the men they are no longer with I feel a strong desire to be able to articulate what makes it safe. It is not going to be easy but I believe it will also help me. So I will attempt to advise and write a beginners guide to boundaries and safe interaction with the clinical narcissist, the pathological liar, and the emotional manipulator who will have you second-guessing the colour of your own hair and the spelling of your own name. I pray I will find some gold for these lovely women because for me, in my particular predicament, the only safe way is, I repeat: do not engage.
words and image by errant satiety
Warning, although this post does not contain sexually explicit material it does contain reference to BDSM terms that may offend some readers.
I caught up with a couple of friends last night. They were in town for a fetish social gathering. It was a lunch and drinks affair not a play session. I met them a few hours after their event. We caught up a little and then the conversation turned to kink. I wanted to know a little more about the group they meet with to see if perhaps this something I might like to get involved with. They clarified that they personally weren’t into D/s (that would be annoying she says) just BDSM kink. I had noticed that she was covered in a lot more scars than ever before. These were explained when she said that bondage with rope etc was too boring for them that they are into ‘cutting and fucking’. In my head I am thinking; ‘well they seem happy and apart from the scars which she is wearing with pride that seem to have healed cleanly, there is no visual cue for concern’. This is not something I am even vaguely interested in but they are so I listen without judgement. They talked a little about managing their scenes and told a couple of humorous stories. Then they notice the attention I am getting from men around us. Excitedly, she says ‘you could totally get picked up’ he agrees noting each of the men who have expressed interest. ‘Except I am happy with my man.’ I say and she rolls her eyes, he laughs derisively, ‘Really? Don’t you get bored? You deserve some fun’. Monogamy doesn’t suit these two I know they have an open relationship but I am surprised that they are encouraging me to cheat. They know my man and consider him family. They push this point rather too hard and clearly think I am a prude. They talk about other fet couples they know, in the local group, and their D/s relationships and I realise that they all seem to have a very different view to my own. They are talking about blame and how the submissive is always wrong even when they are not. I want to explore this statement, as it doesn’t sit right with me. I might be new to this and only entering D/s in a soft way but I still have some clear ideas about what D/s is to me. I brave the rough waters and state: ‘I think both submissive and Dominant need to know when they have done wrong, if my Dominant blamed me for everything it would compromise the trust between us. I see D/s as about being open and honest with each other including the Dominant owning his shit.’ (Like every relationship D/s or not.) They think about this for a while and come back with references that don’t really make sense in this context. I accept that we are on different planets and that a deep and meaningful discussion is obviously not going to happen at this point. We part with hugs and I walk away having learned something about them and myself. I felt really judged by them and their eye rolling attempts to push me in a direction I have no interest in. I am surprised that with their kink interests that they would judge me in this way. I had gone to meet them being more willing than in the past to engage in discussion about D/s, kink, & BDSM but have realised that my initial conclusion about them is true, for them kink & BDSM is an important pastime in theirs lives, they refer to this as ‘the lifestyle’ but it is their version, a lifestyle, it’s not mine and I would never push them into something else or judge them as being lesser for it. I hope they don’t really judge me for my lifestyle, but if they do, well that’s their shit.
Thinking about this situation and the feeling of being judged makes me think about whether or not I judge others and how I manage this. For me it is empathy that enables me to not judge, I can imagine their position, why they are the way they are and somehow come to a place of reconciliation and acceptance. I am not perfect and I am irritated by people’s behaviour at times but I choose not to judge them but rather seek to understand their behaviour (and vice versa if my behaviour irritates someone else then I ask why am I behaving this way with them?). It is hard sometimes to witness someone engaging in behaviour that you feel is unacceptable. Or to be on the receiving end of unacceptable behaviour and realise that the other person doesn’t see any harm (or carry any guilt) in what they are doing. Then I think it comes down to something else, not judgement, more about trust being lost. When someone treats you badly and expects nothing to have changed between you? That someone is no true friend or acquaintance and you have to be sure to protect yourself by withdrawing trust. If someone in your life makes some bad decisions that end up with someone or multiple someone’s feeling betrayed? That again is about trust. Choosing whether or not to support their bad decisions is about making a judgement call that may lead to withdrawing trust. They are no longer who you thought they were and although the relationship may yet be saved you know them differently and may be wary for some time. You can still support them, if you feel so inclined, but I think you have to be clear about your moral or personal standpoint, not judging them (or perhaps there is a little judgement involved) but being clear and sharing where the line is for you. It is up to them whether they wish to discuss their point of view and if they wish to change their personal ‘line’. I don’t like feeling as though someone sees my choices as ‘wrong’ and attempts to push their view onto me. I think that is just rude. I would hope that I don’t do this to anyone else and after last night will be working to ensure that I never do. Sharing points of view and agreeing to agree or disagree is what I would rather experience, not feeling as though I am being judged and that my point of view is ‘pathetic’. One thing is for sure; I do not feel the slightest inclination to join the local group. Although I will reserve final judgement on that until I have met more representatives of the group first hand.