We’re at the end of June and I needed long sleeves this weekend. I love when summer feels cool. We visited Middle Sister’s house to celebrate her birthday and her daughter’s birthday. Gorgeous Niece is now officially a teen. I found a bottle of Middle Sister wine for my sister. The label says that it’s ‘sweet and sassy’ which is just like Middle Sister. Well, she is at least one of those things.
We went to the grocery at an ungodly hour yesterday morning. Because that is what we do on Sunday mornings. Randy, a rat bastard morning person, is more persistent than I am sleepy. I always threaten to not go with him, but then I figure, I’m awake anyway.
I had an epiphany yesterday, you guys.
I love the winding and hilly drive to the grocery where we shop. We always have good conversations during our trips to the store. Well, in between me bitching about his driving and him bitching about me bitching about his driving.
Randy put a CD in the player just as Aerosmith’s cover of Come Together started on the radio. I asked him to hold on for a minute so I could listen to the song.
As I listened, I thought, “this reminds me of something” and I felt anxiety begin chittering away inside.
I attended a Catholic grade school. We had to go to mass every morning before school. Every fucking morning. I hated going to mass every morning. Mass is boring and starts the same every time.
In that regard, my anxiety feels like a Catholic mass. The anxiety starts the same every time.
A tightness grows in my chest followed by these thoughts: Am I forgetting something? I feel like I’m forgetting something. Am I forgetting something bad? Something bad is going to happen, isn’t it? I’m pretty sure something bad is going to happen.
From there, my anxiety can travel anywhere. But the opening prayer never changes.
In that moment, listening to Aerosmith cover The Beatles, I understood a psychological trigger.
I assumed, if a person had a trigger flip, they have a full blown panic attack or a major depressive episode descend on them. I thought a trigger meant crying and curling up in a fetal position.
I realized that all those times I heard or saw or smelled something that made me think “Hey, this reminds me of something” that I was identifying a trigger.
I am late to the party on so many things.
During the seventies, I listened to a lot of different music. I listened to The Jackson Five and David Bowie and Elton John. I listened to Jim Croce and Led Zeppelin and Jim Stafford.
Aerosmith came out on top, though. I fucking loved Aerosmith. I loved Stephen Tyler. I owned a five foot tall poster of Stephen Tyler when I was a freshman. I listened to Rocks and Toys In The Attic a million times and fantasized about Stephen Tyler kissing me with those glorious puffy lips of his.
My dad did not like Aerosmith.
Maybe, just because I liked them. Maybe, he really hated them. Hard to say.
If you’ve been affected by a narcissist, whether a parent or a partner or someone you work with, you will recognize what I’m about to say.
It’s not enough for a narcissist to disagree with a person over a song, opinion, or whether key lime pie tastes good. If presented with a difference, a narcissist can not only sneer at the difference, they can get pissed off.
The narcissist is so terribly broken. They have to protect that feeling that they are perfect and can do no wrong with any means available. They don’t start small, either. If they feel threatened (and they do, all the motherfucking time) then they attack with everything in their arsenal. You pay for not loving the things they love and you pay for not hating the things they hate. It’s not enough for them to merely sneer at your tastes, they question your character, intelligence, and entire existence if you do not agree with them.
My dad could sneer all he wanted. He could curl his lip and spit his contempt at me when it came to my deep and abiding love for Stephen Tyler. I would not waver. I would be true.
We were at my great aunt’s house. My Aunt Marg. I loved her so very much. She and her brother, Uncle Vince, are the safety net that I’ve clung to for years. They represented stability. They represented acceptance.
But I digress.
We were at my aunt and uncle’s house when my dad started pontificating about Aerosmith and how Aerosmith’s cover of Come Together was superior to The Beatles. He spoke with such conviction. He spoke of Aerosmith with an understanding that could only come from being a fan of their music. Or perhaps, he spoke from an understanding he derived entirely from his daughter.
Excuse the fuck out of me?
I didn’t question my father on the spot. Which is a good thing or this blog post might be a little darker. I had learned long before age 14 to never question my father in front of other people. That would end with such vitriol that it would leave another permanent scar on my psyche.
I did question him, though.
“Why? Why did you say that about Aerosmith? You hate Aerosmith.”
He didn’t get mad, which is surprising. He didn’t even get a little defensive that I called him out on a lie. He just shrugged and said that he liked winding my mother’s family up. My mother’s family were a bunch of Beatles fanatics.
As I listened to that song yesterday morning, I felt anxiety come in from nowhere. Then, I remembered that incident with my dad. I was quite proud that I figured out ‘triggers’.
There is the other side of the contempt and anger a narcissist feels when they are faced with a differing opinion. While they have to protect their belief in their absolute perfection, the people on the receiving end are left with the absolute belief that they are ‘less’ if they admire a song or food or person that another person doesn’t like.
The other side of the contempt and anger is where I have lived for years.
Worrying about what other people think has affected all my decisions. I lived in terror of opinions that differed from my own. I think that is one reason I spent so many years living inside my own head.
I won’t say it has been easy, but I’m learning to be my authentic self. I have to stop worrying about what other people think.
With that in mind, I’m thinking about adding pink streaks over my gray hair.
When I first considered this change, I thought “No, I can’t do that. I’m too old. People will think it’s dumb or pathetic. My time for pink hair has passed.”
Well, here’s the thing. I’ve never had pink hair. I think I’d like to see how I feel about pink hair.
I’m going to dye my hair again. And get another tattoo.
Fuck narcissism in the face.
How do you deal with your triggers?