A lifetime of writing (part one).

Selectric_II

Writing, as opposed to the spoken word, has always been my preferred mode of communication. While it’s true I’ve never published a book or made a real career of it, I have a deep love of words and the rhythms and drama of the English language. Writing is where I feel the most at home in myself, and when I’m at my happiest and feel the most productive. Starting this blog, in spite of some painful incidents arising from it in this past year, has been the best decision I ever made.

This blog began as one for victims of narcissistic abuse and of course, as a ranting platform for myself, but recently I’ve been moving away from that subject for several reasons, the most obvious one being that I simply can’t think of anything new to say about narcissism that hasn’t already been said. There are other reasons too. I haven’t decided what this blog’s new focus should be, or if it should have one at all. But I love to write about writing, so that seems like as good a topic as any, at least for today, so I thought I’d share what my lifelong on-again, off-again love affair with the written word has been like.

Childhood.

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English was always my favorite subject in school, and my best one too. Once I learned how to form letters and put them together, I found that I loved written assignments and always did well in them. As a child I also loved to draw and often wrote little illustrated stories at home for fun. Not too long ago I wrote the sad story about the little blank books my father brought me home from a business trip, and how I used to fill them with little stories and pictures (usually drawn in marker because I liked the sharp edges of a marker or pen over crayons and you could fit in more detail). Unfortunately, that ended one day when I found out some of my creations had been stolen. After that I was hesitant to write for myself anymore, and pretty much stopped drawing at all.

But my love of writing didn’t die, and as I grew older, my stories became more detailed and longer. I also liked writing papers for school about topics that interested me and enjoyed everything that went with putting together an awesome looking project–choosing what color construction paper to use for the covers (which I liked to slide into a clear plastic cover with a color-coordinated plastic spine to hold it all together), what to draw on the cover (if anything), how to design the letters spelling out the title, organizing the pages, etc. I almost always made A’s on these projects.

Once I learned to read fluently, I couldn’t get enough books. I remember in third grade, I read voraciously. For some reason, I was particularly enamored of the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books. I also really liked anything by Beverly Cleary. But I’d read just about anything I could get my hands on. At about age 10, I received “Harriet the Spy” as a gift, and she became my hero. I must have read that book about 10 times, and I read Louise Fitzhugh’s other books as well (too bad she didn’t write more books). To me, Harriet was the coolest girl ever, and she loved writing as much as I did. If I couldn’t be one of the popular girls, then I wanted to be Harriet. She was relatable, but so much cooler than I was. For awhile I even carried around a notebook (a black and white cardboard speckled one just like hers) and wrote down random observations about people. I think Harriet is still relevant. I know Fitzhugh’s books are still popular because so many children who are “different” or feel out of place can relate to Harriet. I wish I still had some samples of my early writing, but unfortunately these were lost a long time ago.

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Harriet was my idol when I was about 10.

I was often the target of bullies, especially in 3rd-5th grades, and often would escape to the school library for solace. We had a very sympathetic school librarian. I loved everything about libraries, especially the smell of books. It was very comforting to me, and the only place I felt really at home. Books really were my friends. One of my favorite places to go on the weekends was (drum roll, please!) the public library. I think it’s terrible that government funds for public libraries have been cut in the past decade. I think they’re so important. The Internet is great, but nothing beats a library for nurturing your mind.

Adolescence.

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During my teen years, writing became a back-burner activity, something I did when there was nothing else to do. I did continue to read voraciously, but was a lot less inspired to create anything of my own. What I did write tended to be what one of my teachers called “thunder and lightning” poetry–typical adolescent angst poetry about darkness, depression, despair, neverending rain, crashing storm-generated waves, and death imagery. I was Goth before there was such a thing (and liked to dress in black or dark clothes too). I also wrote long, angry screeds about my mother, who I’d decided (rightfully) was the shallowest, most un-maternal person on earth.

I also kept a diary. It was thick sky-blue leather hardcovered book with a golden lock and key. Unfortunately I couldn’t fit much in the spaces for entries, because it was a five-year diary so I only had a 5th of a page to write anything, and the lines were tiny (and my handwriting tended toward the large and florid). I finally quit writing in it after about 2 1/2 years. Like most other things from my growing-up years, I have no idea what happened to it.

Term papers became more of a chore, because now I was required to use and cite sources, etc. but once I got motivated, I did enjoy it and always got high grades. Sometimes, though, I’d wait until the night before it was due (after fretting for weeks) and stay up all night working frantically to finish the project. My teachers could never tell the difference, but I certainly don’t recommend waiting until the last minute to start a school project, if for nothing else other than the enormous stress that causes.

Early Adulthood.

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College was basically a continuation of high school as far as my engagement with writing was concerned and was limited mostly to term papers and school projects. Of course, the topics I had to write about were more in keeping with my interests (psychology and art). They were also required to be typewritten and I had recently learned how to type and really liked the “professional looking” fonts available on the school’s IBM Selectric and the futuristic looking font-balls you could snap in and out of the machine (I had a typewriter, but it was a basic Royal ribbon typewriter with standard typeface). In those days before the Internet, access to fonts that didn’t look like “typeface” was considered very cool. I also liked the fact I could backspace and actually erase mistakes, instead of having to use White-Out or erasing strips which only covered them and always looked messy. I still have a few of my psychology papers; sometime soon I’ll dig them up and read over them again.

The only project I ever did badly on in college was a verbal assignment on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (oh, the irony!) for my Abnormal Psychology class, but it wasn’t because I hadn’t done my homework or prepared for it; it was because we had to present it in verbal form, in front of the classroom, and I clammed up terribly and my mind went completely blank. I got a D in that assignment, and it took me a very long time to get over that. In written assignments though, I always got A’s or high B’s.

My love affair with electronic typewriters like the Selectric ended when I started my first office job as a receptionist and had to spend entire days typing up invoices and memos. I remember our first word processor and how cool that seemed. I even took classes in Wang, but once again, it wasn’t too long before that seemed humdrum too.

I only completed three years of college because I got engaged and had to work full time, and something had to go. If I had to do it over again, I would have waited to marry and gotten a degree in journalism or gone for a Masters. While married, I didn’t write anything more ambitious than shopping lists. I wouldn’t dabble in creative writing (for myself) again until my early 40s, although I did take jobs as a technical writer, medical editor and part-time book reviewer during my late 20s and thirties.

(To be continued in Part 2.)

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Brain test.

brain

My dad sent this in an email and I thought it was cool.

The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in what oerdr the ltteres in a word are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is that the frsit and last ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can still raed it whotuit a pboerlm. This is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the word as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! If you can raed this forwrad it

A pretty good day

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Alright, so my day didn’t start out very good.

Yesterday I got my settlement check from the insurance company from the car accident Molly was in last month, and this morning had to go to the bank to open a savings account and deposit the rest in checking, so I was an hour late for work because the bank didn’t open until 9 AM and I didn’t want to be toting a huge check around all day.

At 8:30 I received a call from my boss. She screamed “WHERE ARE YOU?”
Rubbing my assaulted ear, I explained I’d left a message on voicemail at 6:30.
“BUT IT WASN’T ON VOICEMAIL! DON’T YOU REALIZE THIS IS OUR BUSIEST SEASON?” The implication that I was lying about leaving a message could not have been more obvious.
“I’m sorry, I did leave a message. I’ll get there as soon as I can. I won’t be more than an hour late.”
“WELL YOU BETTER MAKE IT QUICK!”
Click.

I opened up my laptop and Tweeted: “Today is going to be the day from hell.”
I quickly scanned my blog stats, and found them disappointing.
Mentally I felt my defensive armor going up and my cortisone levels rising. I braced myself for the attack I knew I’d be facing once I got to work.

Although I have nearly perfect attendance and am never late, sure enough, when I arrived at the office, my malignant narcissist boss screamed, “IT’S THE BUSIEST WEEK OF THE YEAR! DON’T YOU REALIZE THAT? YOU ARE RUINING THIS COMPANY!”
Facepalm.

I knew she wasn’t serious, because I do a good job, my attendance is good, and she’s like that with everyone (well, except for her flying monkeys and sycophants), but it still made me feel violated and angry. Narcissists have a way of doing that.

The other bad thing that happened this morning was my daughter Molly went to court and was sentenced to 30 days in jail. She will be out Christmas day (thank goodness for that!). The good thing is that when she gets out, she will owe no more fines (which are far more than she or I can afford) and will have no more probation. She’ll do her time and just has to stay out of trouble after that.

But the day got a lot better. While it wasn’t the day from heaven, it didn’t turn out to be the day from hell either. I made friends with Molly’s older boyfriend, Paul. We were texting each other back and forth about Molly’s day in court and what happened. When I got home from my long day at work, I called him, and we spent about two hours talking. He is very easy to talk to, even for an Aspie like myself–I always feel violated and threatened by the most simple telephone conversations. I always hated the sound of a ringing phone. But talking to Paul was different, and put me at ease.

Paul is not only comfortable to talk to, he genuinely and sincerely cares about Molly. He’s the first boyfriend she’s ever had who has really cared about her wellbeing and wants her to turn her life around instead of all the losers who did nothing but drag her down and use her. We talked mostly about Molly, and what we can do together to help her. He’s older than she is and she listens to him, where she hasn’t always listened to me (I’m her mom–that’s probably why!) He put money into her jail account so she can buy concessions and make phone calls.

The other day I wrote a long depressing post saying I thought Molly was a narcissist (and she may be), but once again I have doubts. Drug addiction and bipolar disorder can also cause a person to act in a narcissistic way. She also has a diagnosis of BPD and PTSD. People with BPD can act very much like narcissists, as can bipolar people in their “manic” phase.

The reason I’m once again doubting she’s a true narcissist is because when she was handcuffed today, Paul was there with her, and she looked at him and said, crying, “I’m so sorry for all the pain I’ve caused everyone. I really want to change. I’m a terrible person.”

I don’t think she would have been faking those tears and those words; for what reason would she do so? Paul told me they have had some deep conversations about her behavior and run-ins with the law over the past decade and how much she doesn’t want to be part of that anymore. I think she was running around with some people who were very bad for her, because she thought she didn’t deserve or couldn’t do any better.

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Molly is intellectually brilliant and could do anything she wants in life. Once upon a time she was a straight-A student. But her self esteem is so low that she’s mostly associated with people far beneath her, people who do stupid things because they just aren’t very bright. Paul wants her to spend more time with her psychologically healthier friends who aren’t doing drugs, and meet some of his friends who are succeeding too.

Molly has never liked to read much (although she reads and writes very well), but in jail she will have a lot of time for reading (it beats playing cards and watching endless reruns of “Cops”). He told me about a book she had been talking about by the actress Kristen Johnson, called “Guts,” in which she describes her struggles with alcohol and drugs before she turned her life around. This book could be inspirational for her. Molly has always liked biographies and stories about people with substance abuse issues. I remember her favorite book in high school was one that had also been a favorite of mine when I was her age: “Go Ask Alice.”

I don’t have any family to speak of (or rather, none that I speak to), and certainly none in my area, but Paul invited me to his home for Thanksgiving. I invited my roommate to come along, but she declined, so it will just be the two of us. He’s new in this area and has no family here either. He’s cooking dinner and I’m bringing dessert and a bottle of red Merlot wine (my favorite).

Having been burned so many times by narcissists and psychopaths, I don’t trust people easily, so of course there’s a small nagging voice in my head warning me Paul may be a narcissist in the love-bombing phase, but I really, truly don’t think so.

Just the other day, Molly was talking about having kids someday. She’s never shown the slightest bit of interest in having children (she is a bit young still and certainly not emotionally ready), but she told me she would be interested if she was married, and she thinks Paul may be The One. I told her not to rush things and I would like her to attend school first. Paul and I think she just may do this once she is released. He wants to take her to the community college just to have a look around and maybe sign up for one class just to get her feet wet.

After putting most of the settlement in savings, I still have a little over $1,000 left, a nice sum of cash for someone as poor as I am. Some will be used for Christmas, but I decided to order a few books tonight. One was Kristen Johnson’s book “Guts” which I’ll bring to Molly; I also ordered a Wild Republic stuffed raccoon (a Christmas gift for my son (who already has “Alfonso” the river otter, who I wrote about)), and two more books about narcissism: Martha Stout’s “The Sociopath Next Door,” which I have heard great things about; and Sam Vaknin’s gigantic tome, “Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited.”
I love to get things in the mail, especially books.

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Any day, no matter how shitty it starts, where I can make a new friend, feel hopeful about my kid, have a little money to spend, realize I won’t be alone on a big holiday after all, and get some new books to read, is a good day. And if I can end that day with a new blog post telling you what a good day it was, then it’s officially a great day.

Post #100: my surviving book collection.

Books and reading have always been my passion. As long as I can remember I always had my nose stuck in a book. I actually used to “cut class” in third grade to go to the school library (I hated 3rd grade the most because I was not only bullied by the other kids but was also bullied by my teacher Mrs. Morse, who had it in for me through the whole year and actually encouraged the other kids to gang up on me.) Reading was my escape, my middle childhood version of creating my own imaginary friends and worlds, and I read on a 7th-8th grade level in the third grade.

My two favorite books as a child were (1) Louise Fitzhugh’s classic  “Harriet the Spy” (read the book but skip the movie –Harriet is not your usual female heroine–she’s feisty, neurotic and isn’t even all that nice–she is part villain, part hero, and that makes her have so many dimensions for a kids’ book) and (2) Scott O’Dell’s breathtaking survival story, “The Island of the Blue Dolphins”.  How I longed, like the young heroine in that beautiful story, to be stranded for 18 years on a desert island, swim with the dolphins, commune with nature and wildlife, fashion my own hut and raft for fishing,  and most of all, spend almost two decades not having to deal with people at all. .

These two bookshelves pictured below contain almost all my remaining books. I keep a few others in the reading room bathroom and a few more on a smaller shelf next to my bed. I used to read an average of 3 books a week but lately I haven’t been reading nearly so much, because I do so much reading on line now.

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Yes, that is a Salvador Dali inspired melting clock dripping off one of the shelves on the left hand side. It was given to me as a gag gift last Christmas, but it was the perfect gift for a person like me who loves the random and unexpected when it comes to gifts.   The clock works too!   (Click photo to enlarge). 

I used to own more than 3,000 titles (hell, I could have opened my own little bookstore!) but lack of space and financial necessity obliged me to sell most of the books or give them away to charity. There’s a few books I regret giving up; here are most of the remaining titles that either didn’t sell, or I refused to sell.

And now….(drum roll please!)…I have reached 100 posts.  🙂 

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