Surrounded in a House of Cards


Lukasz Szmigiel

Me: “Mom, you’re not supposed to park here.” “Mom, there’s a sign that says staff parking only. You can’t park here.” “Mom!”

Suddenly, an important person in authority shows up: “Ma’am, you can’t park here. Public parking is on the other side of this building.”

Mom: “Oh, thank you officer for telling me. I didn’t know.”

Story of my life.

I hadn’t realized how much Narcissism in the family made me into the cipher (I think) I am today — until I happened upon a random YouTube suggestion (Permission To Exist).

Ironically, I didn’t have the words to express the disconnect between the way I feel and the way others treated me. I still don’t.

“There’s nothing more lonely or terrifying than feeling unheard.” —Frank Underwood, “House Of Cards”

The rare times I ran into someone who took a genuine interest in me, who took what I said to heart… I honestly didn’t know what to make of it. I wouldn’t respond in the right way, dismissing the compliment or fumbling my way through the interaction, taking way too long to answer, feeling enormously self-conscious, sinking into the mixed-message rabbit hole of my own devices, imagining all sorts of far-fetched scenarios.

I realize I never had parents who mirrored healthy behaviors. I am probably drawn to people who mirror their Narcissist personalities: the self-centeredness, controlling, dominating, the profound defensive insecurities, the tendency to lash out instead of understand, the utter shallow fakeness of their popular double lives.

“… their whole entire lives they haven’t felt seen or heard, or people don’t listen to them, or disregard them, they don’t take them seriously, don’t account them as real…” —Permission To Exist, YouTube

Deep down inside, what scared me the most is that I have surrounded myself with Narcissists because they’re all I’ve known of normal and shunned those who are genuinely good and good for me to be around.

What if I’ve been fooled all this time? What if I never recognize my worth and the worth of others outside that compelling Narcissist bubble?

What if it’s too late for me?

Another fear involves me. I may be way past the point of recognizing my own self-worth, of fighting for myself.

I’ve fought and struggled so long to be heard, to be loved for whoever I am, of simply trying to convince my family that I’m not always wrong or to blame. Instead, I’m so used to being pushed down/put down, verbally and physically, that I don’t know any other way to assert my independence other than through emasculated outlets, ranting and raving in the safety of my own private little room (the writing), baking for others, crocheting for others, others, not me.

It never occurs to me to make these things for myself.

When I order or buy a product, I never use it or wear it right away. I set it aside for later, afraid of ruining it, I guess.

Growing up, my parents would automatically blame me for everything that went wrong in my life — even when I wasn’t to blame. I would have racist soldiers openly mock me at a bowling alley in front of my dad, and he’d yell at me. I didn’t say a word. I didn’t do anything to warrant the racial attack. I simply existed, looking the way I do in 1971. Why was what they did my fault?

Another time, some bullies cornered me in the woods above the playground, causing me to pee my pants. I rant to a neighbor’s house for safety. They gave me such compassion before calling my parents. My parents pretended to care, but in the privacy of their own home, they ripped into me for going into the woods in the first place and embarrassing them by pissing my pants. Then, they beat me for causing them so much trouble. They made me feel like a disgusting savage.

After 10-20 years of this, I began to believe their projection.

A few months ago, I went to a musician’s show in town. I wrote about his music a few times for a blog. He enjoyed my writing, or he said he did. Whenever I talk to him, I’m astounded by the way he treats me.

I’ve never been treated that way in my entire life, not even by my own husband (who showed glimmers of such interest when he first met me and sized me up as dating material).

This musician was kind, sensitive, respectful, understanding, and interested in me apart from what I wrote about him and his music. He wanted nothing from me, other than to enjoy my company.

WTF was that about?

I honestly didn’t know how to react when he’d sit down and ask about my interests, my hobbies, what I thought about this or that. He would take everything in, everything. His eyes lit up when he saw me walk in the room, as if I contributed positive energy, as if I mattered.

I need more friends like him in my life.

More to the point, I need to believe I deserve more friends like him in my life.

Tonight, as I go out for my daily walk through nature, I will listen more to Permission To Exist on YouTube. She kind of reminds me of my late friend Terri, another person who genuinely cared about me, and a soccer mom from long ago who did an astral therapy with me.


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