Friday, December 26, 2008

Echo and Narcissus

It's hard to watch a person you love, admire, and respect (more than almost anyone else) spend time and energy and devotion on a person who doesn't deserve even a minute of that attention.

I don't know what my role exactly is with him. I don't know if I was ever supposed to be involved in the first place, but I am, and it's a false and frustrating kind of involvement--I'm consulted, I say what I think, even the brutal things, but I have no power or control. I couldn't possibly, even if I wanted to.

You can't make a person see what you see--you have inevitably different and separate points of view, no matter how much you communicate. You're only communicating to them what you see; you're painting a picture of your point of view, and then they say "Oh, so that's what you see," but it isn't what they see, and it doesn't really affect them.

This person, this object of his attention, is not a special person. Not kind, empathetic, interesting, productive, inspiring, worthy of respect, uplifting, exciting, deep, thoughtful, or even decent, at this point. This description is "my opinion," though I am only one of many who hold it. But then that just makes it them against the world--they're in that stage where they believe they "have a connection" that they've never had with anyone else, and this makes it worth continuing.

When asked the pros and cons of being with this person, he can't think of any pros. But it's that "connection" that people talk about. All that means is that the other person makes you feel special. That you have shared intimacy between you. It's a false feeling that they "get" you. They "understand" you because you were both lonely and now you're spending time together. Even though you're miserable now, it's not technically from lonliness.

I experienced this with my first boyfriend. I thought we understood each other unlike anyone in our lives had ever understood us before. The truth is that we both had a similar chip on our shoulders and some similar pain in our lives, and we recognized that in the other. But you can't build on that. It's like pitching a tent over a hole in the ground.

The truth is, they don't "get" you and they never will. They don't even really know you as a whole person, because they'll never understand your brilliant side, your peaceful side, your happy side. They don't want you to be happy because then you'll leave them behind. They want someone to lay down and be sad with; they want somebody who will leave the party early with them.

When you're "in love" with someone who exhibits narcissistic behavior, they don't think about your feelings for even a moment. You think they see your pain because they know it so well in themselves, and that's why there's a false sense of connection. They're even really good at listening to you when something's wrong in your life--in fact, they revel in it, because then they're not the only unhappy ones. But try to share something good about your life with how they retreat or change the subject. They don't want those things for you.

You spend enough time with them to know intimately the ins and outs of their moods, their insecurities, their meltdowns, their patterns, and you become the caretaker. The Very Special Caretaker who is the only one who understands the dosages, the remedies, the exact amount of time and space, the words that will illicit the least amount of reactionary anger. And "the connection" and the sense of closeness--of the two of you against the world--is fueled. It's one big ego dream that alters your sense of reality--it takes you out of your own life, your goals, your freedom, your tendency to seek joy. You're not you anymore--you're on call. You're the red-eyed patrol nurse. You brush off your family and friends because they're not in desperate need of you. Your everyday interaction with healthy people feels less intense, less passionate. You slowly start to reject healthy behavior in others and yourself. You can't relate to it anymore. You can't relate to anything without sirens attached. At the warm party, you're outside on the phone. You let them pull you away from happiness. They've convinced you that happiness is dull, boring, and fake because they can't feel it. They're your beautiful, dark, tortured thing, alive with pain and self-loathing and need.

The worst delusion is the one about losing them--you've become scared of freedom, naturalness, and peace. Of quiet. Your delusion is that you'll be lost without them. You've forgotten who you are if you're not the caretaker. You imagine a long string of quiet, mind-numbingly boring moments in which all there is to do is think about how you've lost them and you don't know what to do without them. You don't know who to be.

The truth is that you can do anything you want without them. You can think about what you'd like to do today--who you'd like to see, where you'd like to go, what you'd like to have for dinner. You can laugh really loudly without feeling lame or guilty. You can sit around without feeling boring. You can see your family and friends and admit that you have a great time together. You can stay in one place and enjoy yourself. You can turn your phone off. You can be you again, or at least start to remember who that person is. Later, you can meet a person who truly sees and appreciates you--someone who wants to hear about the good things in your day and gets excited for you. Someone who doesn't need you in their life, but who just likes your presence. Someone you don't even feel like fighting with, because they believe in you, and you don't have anything to prove.

It's not as bad to watch it happen as it is to be the one going through it, of course. I won't pretend that any of it is about me. It's not my responsibility, it's not my life, it's not my business. But I still wonder if there's a sliver of possibility that something I say could make a difference--could bring clarity to the situation. The truth that I need to face is that the answer is probably no. Just because I've been through something doesn't mean someone else will look at my life and say "Hey, I know how that turns out. I'm going to go ahead and not go down that road." And just because I have a lot of opinions doesn't make me an authority. My ego dream is that I can fix it, but I can't, because it isn't mine to fix. I just have to hope that he chooses peace. I guess he'll have to get completely sick of it before he leaves. I'm just worried about how long that will take. People choose peace only when they're ready for it and not afraid of it, because it's scary. Peace means quiet, and painful clarity, and sometimes boredom--it means admitting where you're wrong, and letting go, and stopping, and accepting. And I'm having a really hard time with that, myself.

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