This year can’t come to an end quickly enough for many of us. First, 2020 slapped the world with a deadly pandemic. Then, in the United States, racial unrest led to riots, looting, and additional deaths not related to a novel virus. Add to that a contentious election, and stress and anxiety hit an all-time high.
As I wrote in our community email last week, I am trying (and sometimes failing) to find good things to be grateful for. Something happened on Thanksgiving morning that reset my attitude, at least for a few weeks. And shockingly, it involved a narcissist. I don’t have hope for change on the narcissist’s part. That’s a ticking time bomb that will blow up in your face. But the narcissist’s actions brought perspective about what I can do as a survivor, mother, daughter, and friend.
My son and I went to visit family in Arkansas for Thanksgiving this year. We usually travel abroad, but my father had an unplanned triple bypass two days before the holiday. His physician found that one of his main arteries was 99% blocked, and two others were nearly 80%. Dad could’ve died at any time in the last several months. Although Dad is in great pain, he is alive. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to him at 73.
On Thanksgiving morning, I found myself in the kitchen, chatting with my Mom. My mother, a narcissist whom many of you read about in my book Ugly Love, was baking her favorite fruit dish. I complimented how good it smelled, then reminded her I was headed to the hospital that afternoon to be my father’s only visitor. The hospital is very strict about visitation due to Covid-19.
As we chatted about Dad, I began to cry. I seldom cry in front of Mom, as growing up, emotions were frowned upon unless they produced a better outcome in a situation. But, after a recent break-up and my dad in debilitating pain, I began sobbing in the doorway. Mom put down her spoon and came over to me, hugged me and held me, and said, “I know, honey. First, your father will be okay. And, you didn’t deserve what your ex-boyfriend did, but I am grateful you don’t have another terrible husband in your life. Let’s look at this like protection. I know you are hurting, and I am so sorry.”
I was dumbfounded. I don’t remember ever, and I mean EVER, having Mom nurture me like that. This is what I had been hoping and praying for during the last four decades. I knew this moment would likely not happen again (Mom has shown signs of dementia), but we talked for three minutes, and she held me. Her actions made me feel like I could conquer the world. I felt like everything would be okay, just because I had a mom that said it would be.
Her uncharacteristic nurturing reminded me how important it is to show unconditional love for those closest to us. It reaffirmed my determination to let my son know that I am his safe place, no matter what happens. I want him to know me as his rock, his source of unconditional love, and his home.
I am not telling you to throw out your hope, but I encourage you to put it in people who want to improve and grow. You are special and unique, and only the best friends and family members deserve your care, attention, and love. Be a rock for them. Build the foundation of a great relationship by just being you. And I am confident you will have them build your home on their rock, too. You matter.
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