Do you have an independence day? No, I’m not talking about a national holiday, but the day you were set free because you realized a relationship with someone you loved was not going to work any more? It seems we have many independence days along this journey from narcissism. Sometimes we have to get up and declare our independence just to get out of bed in the morning, but several years ago I claimed July seventh for my personal independence day. It started because seven is my favorite number.
My Grandma used to tell me I was lucky to be born on the seventh day of the month and the seventh day of the week. By lucky she meant blessed. She believed seven is God’s special number and in her Grandmotherly way she wanted me to know I was God’s special child. So I took joy in the number seven and adopted it for my own, but the good things God provides can sometimes be misused by his enemy.
Seven years ago my family went through what I call the great divorce. Two of my siblings divorced that summer. When I stood up for a child to have access to both parents in a nasty divorce, my parents tried to discredit the truth I spoke by writing a letter to a judge proclaiming me to be a liar and religious fanatic. They said I make stuff up just to hurt people. Of course those who really know me would realize this letter was a lie, but the fact my own parents lied about me and dated it on 7/7 was crushing. Even the date on their letter seemed to taunt me.
If it weren’t for God, my loving husband, my sweet friend Mary Lou who adopted me and a father and mother in law who gave me reassuring love, I’m not sure what I would have done. Since then, I’ve seen my parents twice in seven years. The first was when I asked them to join me at the Spaghetti Factory. It ended with my mom trying to shame me for telling the truth and my dad yelling at me in the parking lot and calling me mentally ill.
A year later on a bright blue sky New Year’s Day, I was sitting in church and felt it was a good time to let bygones be bygones so I asked my husband if we could leave in the middle of church service and I called my parents and we drove to their house. I felt they loved me and wanted us to have a relationship, but sadly the relationship could only be on their terms and part of their terms was for me to stop writing about my peripatetic childhood and most importantly the use of the belt and my being refused a high school education. They believed my only goal in writing about my pain was to cause them pain.
Today marks the seventh anniversary of my journey to emotional freedom from narcissistic abuse. Back then I had no name for my distress. I would never think of my parents as narcissistic because they’ve never been vain about how they look. I had no clue narcissism is often manifested by the fear of what other people think. And this fear propels narcissistic people to control and belittle those who don’t do what they want.
When I confronted my father about the letter to the judge, he laughed at me and challenged me to tell him what it said. Then he said he didn’t remember what he said because he just wrote it to discredit me. I’ll spare you the details of our three hour long conversation. Most of it was about my theology.
Wherever I’ve lived, I never really felt I needed new friends because my main friends were always my family, but after the great divorce everything changed. It felt like most of my family died in a bus wreck—except they were still alive—just not speaking to me. I think the death of cherished relationship before someone dies might even be worse than physical death. How I wish there was some magic cure for all of our misunderstandings about God, self-protection and narcissism.
As I was working on my memoir today, I noticed the date with great sorrow. It’s been seven years since they wrote the letter and over five since I’ve seen my parents. I’ve never been a grudge holder, but I’ve discovered without honesty and respect, it’s pretty hard to keep a relationship going.
I still love my parents–both of them. But the question is do they love me enough to be honest and treat me with respect? We can’t keep calling people who have very little to say to us and we can’t make people appreciate having us in their lives. Even God lets people go to their own choices. Fundamentally these lies have broken our relationship.
I’ve even had family members say you never know how long they will live, but then do any of us have a guarantee of tomorrow? I used to be the one who called everyone in my family to stay in touch, but after the great divorce, I realized relationships are a two-way street. I still wish I could be near my parents and do things for them, but I can no longer do it at the cost of my emotional, physical and spiritual health. Even Jesus said we have to shake dust off of our feet rather than stay and fight with people who can’t support us. If we are to reunite it will be up to their choices and Jesus.
Every year on July 7, I celebrate my independence day, because without that letter and the subsequent conversations, I might never have used the knife that stabbed in me in the back to cut the apron strings. Discovering the truth about narcissism a couple years ago, filled in another piece of my healing puzzle. Today I realize it’s not mean to tell my own story. As a matter of fact a good memoirist tells on herself as much as she does anyone else. This book I’m writing has been prayed over with many tears because I don’t want to hurt the people I love. At the same time, truth brings healing to all who embrace it.
So now it’s been seven years since that sad day on 7/7, seven years of mostly silence from my family, but I’m still celebrating my freedom from the control and expectations of others. I celebrate that I have a husband who has stood by my side and loves me for over twenty six years. I have now officially been with him longer than without him. I celebrate that I am loved by a loving father in heaven. I celebrate all the wonderful people who have loved me and befriended me in the last seven years.
And through my celebration I will continue to release and let go and of my own pain and expectations. I will release art. I will release stories and books and I will release my gifts and love for God and people who are worthy of hearing my story.
So this is a little insight into my memoir writing and why I am doing less art and writing less blogs while I am focusing on my book. I hope this encourages you if you are struggling to stand up to tell your story. Memoirs have been called modern fairy tales. We can never have too many stories because all of our stories matter.
Peace and freedom to all!