Last year, 2021, was a challenging year. It was for everyone. I believe it’s because we’re all, humanity, still figuring out what we need to be. This isn’t just humanity: it’s our organizations, our businesses, and our families that we’re reconsidering. Reconsidering what we want. What we need. What is important. For me, I think that it was a year of highlighting what is holding me back from being me. Authentically, truly, really me.
I started using a new program, via an app called Fabulous. It’s about habit creation, and coaching, and your journey. I laughed this morning. There was a question within the app that said, “Do you remember that moment, Kris, you knew what you wanted to do with your life?”
Remembering that moment… I’m not sure I have even had that moment. No, that’s being disingenuous. I know. It wasn’t that long ago but I do know. The challenge I have is being brave enough to say it, to really own it. To BE it. It’s tangled in a web of garbage of childhood, imprinting, and then feeding the imprint as I grew up, got older. I’m not alone. I know this. And I knew that I was in danger of not fulfilling my true human potential if I kept it hidden. Not living it. Not owning it. But like all of us, it’s a sticky web that gets stickier the more I overthink it.
And, this is just what I’ve been doing. I know my process. I have to overthink to frustrate myself to get to the point that I move. It’s just what I do. I can connect to all kinds of Truth in my head. Shoving it down, to connect to my heart, that’s a harder sell. A friend suggested writing about what was going on, and perhaps sharing with others who are struggling. I am not that special – but maybe I can give voice to it so it can be shared.
I have a family that is narcissistic and incredibly needy. My mother and father and all grandparents have passed on. I never had aunts or uncles, my parents being both only children. No cousins to speak of. I have two living relatives left: I have a special-needs family member and I have another who is not on the spectrum; the latter is married and dealing with a potentially life-threatening illness. As it stands now, I am the trustee for the one with challenges. Those who have read through my previous writings might have stumbled on the times of taking care of a sick and dying father, and the intensity of dealing with that need. That was the ball that started this party rolling, I believe, and I’ve come to see how my parents both contributed to our ways of being.
Let me preface this by saying I know that they did their best in raising us. They did the best they could with what they knew. What they both knew was how to be needy in their own ways. My father was needy for his independence and nomadic nature. My mother was needy for love, attention, and affection. They settled down in 1960’s California with a burning desire to be The Cleavers. Everything would be okay if they bought into that lifestyle and dream. Of course, they became alcoholics, starved for the love they could never develop within themselves. They consistently looked for approval and love outside of themselves. Raising three children in this atmosphere must have been tough. Children are the very definition of need. If you have nothing to give, where do you go?
Being adopted, I have escaped a good deal of the genetic make-up that predisposes one to alcoholism and other behaviors on the same spectrum. It is interesting to see the vast differences between nature vs. nurture, to see how there are some very good gifts I was given biologically. In my weird, spiritual-based nature, I see that I was to be adopted here to take care of this family in ways they could not. Call it karma, call it payback, I don’t know. I do know that for whatever reason, I was the capable one. I was Captain Anne Rackem, taking control from birth. I was the Family Hero. It taught me a great deal and forced me to learn how to be adaptable and generous, with a slight rebellious streak. What it did not teach me was how to care for myself as much as I was required to care for others. It also taught me not to value my own boundaries, my own wisdom, and my own humanity.
Time passes, people pass, and we hopefully grow wiser. I’ve worked hard to see my value, set some boundaries, and establish my own worth in my head. Maybe not my heart, quite yet. What I have learned is that I have a talent for seeing what is happening with people – in business and life, in all facets – and to be able to push people to think about situations differently. I am able to ask questions and show them a different insight. I’ve learned not to own what I see but deliver it so it can be heard. To affect a different consciousness. That is the gift I’ve been given and my chosen path is to become a personal and leadership coach. I am working toward this as a profession but also a way of being: as a manager within my company, as a leader within my avocation and fraternal organization. I’m learning to be bold, speak Truth, and be me. I’m constantly searching for the truth, for what means something, and what helps us all become better. That is my “knowing what I want to be.” I want to be in service to others who want to work with my gift. Period.
To be “me” with one of my family members is not possible. They are the very definition of “narcissistic tendencies.” Phone conversations never even begin with a hello. They begin with something immediately happening to them, literally in the moment, or some comment about something I or they have done which they find amusing. This is exactly the way my father would answer a call when I phoned. It was rude and negating.
Like a recent article that my friend sent me, I grapple with the question of what I should do. This family member is not mean; quite the opposite. However, there comes a point in your life when you have to ask yourself, “how long will I continue to be and mean nothing to them?” At what point do I finally get tired enough of the self-absorbed conversations and the pointed remarks about my “meanness” for being blunt? At what point do I finally believe that I will not be heard, never be heard, and never really understood? Like the article, the question is “what do you owe yourself?” I find it challenging to be nice to anyone who is a narcissist. I gain nothing from this relationship. The family member gains some validation on their own importance, their importance of being right, or of being validated. I am left holding a bag of used-up patience, spent goodwill, and an exhausted mental state.
The same friend who sent me the article said “older souls will never be heard by some people, mostly their own family.” Older soul or not, I have a lot to learn. Yet, I embody and hold many of these characteristics. My family member will never be able to hear me, much as my parents never heard me. I learned to serve and not be seen for who I was and who I am.
So what needs to be done? What works for me? What kind of person do I want to be?
As my husband, the wise, scholarly one said, “You’re obsessing. Just do what you need to do. Go.” Did I mention he was wise? The answer I think is that simple. Stop the mental masturbation. I’ve paid whatever familial karmic debt I was meant to pay when my father died. Perhaps this is the last vestiges of the rags of childhood that need to be cast off. I welcome the opportunity to build those bonfires and burn the apathy and angst to the ground. The gods know, it’s been a long time coming.
I may write more here as this transition unfolds. There is so little that people discuss when it comes to their inner journey – how did they succeed? What were their obstacles? Did they scream “EUREKA!” and all was perfect? Probably not. For me, success is in the telling, the sharing, and my own understanding. It’s a quiet “eureka,” with no exclamation point or capital letters. It’s repeating it in my head, over and over, so I don’t forget it. It’s celebrating that I finally groked it and having satisfaction in solving my own mystery.
On my office wall is a beautiful painting by Christine Cianci, entitled “The Phoenix.” She painted this for me, decades ago, when I needed a symbol to transition from an old life to this current one. I think it’s time to move on, again. The portal has opened for a new symbol to appear, a new guide on this life’s journey. I am excited about the discovery.