Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


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Peaks and Valleys…

..and peaks again!

I had absolutely no idea how long six months to a year would feel. Or how hard a long distance engagement would be. The Tour Guide and I have had our ups and downs just like any other couple.  And I’m sure we’ve had some different ups and downs from couples who are together.

The whole visa process is long and arduous and took longer than I anticipated.  When we started the paperwork I thought he’d be here in six months or so. How wrong I was!  First I had to petition the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service for permission for The Tour Guide(USCIS) to apply for a K-1 Visa, also known as a Fiance Visa.  That’s the part that could have taken up to six months.  Little did I know when I thought we might have a Christmas or New Year’s wedding that was just the beginning of the process.   We got notification that our petition was approved in December.

Then My Tour Guide could apply for the actual visa but only after obtaining all the information that ever existed about him.  For obvious reasons the Department of Homeland Defence checks backgrounds pretty thoroughly. Logically I know that visa fraud happens – people fake their identities and such- but I have no idea how.  I mean, I’ve heard of it, but it would be so incredibly difficult to pull off.  So after obtaining certified copies of his birth certificate, his divorce decree, his police clearance certificate, his medical records including vaccinations and a USCIS approved physical he was eligible for an interview.

In March I did a whirlwind trip to England to attend the interview with my British beau, taking a nineteen hour flight on a Saturday and returning via the same route on the following Wednesday.  We had a two plus hour drive to London for the interview.  We were both sooo nervous because the U.S. government is pretty particular about who they let into the country to stay.  It was possible they could say no.  We built it up in our minds to somewhat of an interrogation.  Hell, I half pictured him in a chair, in a dark room, with a light in his face!

Thankfully it was much more friendly than that.  We arrived at the U.S. Embassy in London at eight a.m. for his nine a.m. appointment.  We didn’t wait very long before a British gentleman called him to a window to request all his documents.  Then we thought we’d wait for hours, but we didn’t.  We were probably there a total of two, maybe two and half, hours before he was called to the window.  After a very friendly exchange the interview lasted a grand sum total of ten whole minutes and we walked out of there approved!

In between all that time we’ve been getting to know each other better, having peaks and valleys and figuring out how to navigate a healthy relationship.  There was a time or two I didn’t know if we’d make it.  Everybody has baggage, right? But I think we’ve figured out how to make our baggage a full set of luggage on this crazy trip together.

The Tour Guide is flying here the first week of July.  So finally, after this long journey, we’ll be in the same hemisphere, in the same time-zone, and together for good! This messed up woman can’t wait to start her new life with her sweet, loving, sensitive, handsome, messed up man!

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God Made Dirt

Let’s lighten things up a bit.  Some things are very puzzling.  Real conundrums.  Recently I participated in(mostly listened to) this conversation with GoodFriend and her daughter.  We went out to dinner and GoodFriend’s daughter had been camping at a music festival and was telling us about it.  The following ensued:

GF:  Camping’s not my thing.  When and how did you take a bath?

D:  It’s not that bad.  I just took a bath when I got home.  Y’know that saying, God made dirt and dirt don’t hurt.

Me:  (laughing) What? No, I’ve never in my life heard that.

GF:  I’ve never heard that either.  What does that even mean?

D:  You know! Kids in school said it all the time.  If someone was getting picked on about BO they would say it.  God made dirt so it can’t be bad.  Dirt never hurt anything.  So even if they never took another bath it wouldn’t hurt.  That’s as old as dirt.  How can you not have heard that?

GF:  Cleanliness is next to Godliness.

D:  When the kid would say that I’d just say, “God made cancer too.  Do ya want some of that?”

GF:  God didn’t make cancer.

D:  Sure he did.

Me: Well if he made everything else…

GF:  God didn’t make cancer.

Me:  How’d it get here?

GF:  It’s consequences.

Me:  How come good people get it?

GF:  Because we live in a fallen world.

D:  Cancer is mutated cells.

Me:  So they evolved?

D:  Well, yeah.

GF: No, cancer is consequences of living in a fallen world.

Me: Lemme make sure I understand this.  So God made all the good stuff, and if it isn’t good it’s consequences.  But God didn’t make the consequences.  The consequences evolved.

GF:  I guess.

I found this conversation puzzling.  Now, lest you think I’m poking fun at GoodFriend, I am.  But I’m poking fun at myself, too.  I used to rationalize the bad stuff in exactly the same way.  In fact, I’m sure I’ve heard some preaching to this effect.  They’d never call what they are saying about diseases evolution, but that’s exactly what they’re describing.  Why didn’t I see that before?

 


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Fixers and Fiends

In the last several posts I’ve discussed narcissism/psychopathy and codependence.  There is a distinct relationship between the two.  A codependent either by nature or by nurture doesn’t know where s/he ends and another begins.  They don’t recognize boundaries.

Codependents also seek out security.  They find individuals who are or appear to be confident, positive, and self-assured very attractive.  With an air of superiority, grandiose visions, and elevated an elevated estimate of self-importance narcissists fit the bill.  Narcissists crave admiration and codependents want someone to admire and look up to.

Narcissists can’t handle their superiority or their authority being challenged (sound like any preachers you know?).  They need relationships with individuals who are ready and willing to be and remain subservient to them.  Codependents find it difficult to make their own decisions, for whatever reasons (nature or nurture) so they commonly defer to the narcissist.  This plays to the narcissists ego and makes him/her feel important.

Over time the codependent takes on the defensive characteristics and survival behaviors of the narcissist so that the narcissism is extended beyond themselves.  If the narcissist experiences some kind of “injury”, like having their authority challenged, having their superiority questioned, a codependent will go to battle to defend their amour by any means necessary including lying, among other insidious behaviors, to “protect” them.  Anything that angers the “leader” also angers the “follower”.  Eventually the codependent feels they cannot live without or survive without the narcissist.  They are their world.  That is a lot of power for an individual to wield. And s/he knows how to use it.  Anywhere outside of religion that is called exactly what it is – a sickness.  In any religion besides your own that would be called a cult.

This would explain why people feel a need, not just to defend their god, but attack anyone who would dare to question him.  And, according to the religion, would feel justified in doing so, calling it righteous anger.  Because god has received some perceived injury to his ego or reputation his people go on the defensive and vile behavior is the result. All of this, mind you, under the guise of love.  The codependent is convinced this is what love is and what love does. What kind of god needs defending or protection?  If he is so great and so mighty and so strong why would his ego be hurt at all by a few questions?  But the problem is his followers don’t know where they end and god begins.  Any assertion that he might not be all he’s claimed to be is a personal affront to them.

It is also why people, like me, feel or felt we could trounce on the personal boundaries of others.  We think we can see so plainly what someone else needs to “fix” them, because god told us so, that we bulldoze right over them.  They’re swimming along perfectly fine, but because they decide not to follow one or more of god’s rules we decide they need to be saved.   We look at them and see them as drowning.  So we dive in, tell them their drowning, and try our damnedest to drag them to shore.  All the while they’re looking at us like we have three heads, kicking against us, while both go under.  Looking like lunatics people, in defense of their chosen deity, hold signs up in protest of homosexuality and abortion and burn Qurans.  It’s why Rick Santorum thinks he should be able to tell women that they cannot take birth control.

Most of us, some more than others, have experienced this backlash from the codependents of the pastor/leadership of their church lord when we voiced our questions or had the nerve to question the Bible or the audacity to challenge church leadership.  Even if we didn’t leave the faith entirely, but just decided on a more progressive, friendly form of the faith we have been maligned.  Family, friends, neighbors either were angry and retaliated in defense of whatever the perceived injury occurred, or they tried to guilt us into staying, or they tried to rescue us, or they shunned us.

This is a god who supposedly created the heavens and the earth, by whatever means.  This is a god who supposedly controls the universe.  And yet he also orchestrates the most ridiculous of scenarios so that we, his beloved, get to serve him(sometimes in evil ways like killing entire nations of people), then tell him how wonderful he is for allowing us the opportunity, praise him all the day long, and go to bed feeling worthless.  We behave in completely unethical  and sometimes criminal ways and feel completely justified in doing so because we have based our ideas of right or wrong on a literal, inerrant reading of scripture.

The only way to break free from this illness of codependence is to somehow, pardon the pun, miraculously discover that that god doesn’t exist and even if he did he wouldn’t need us to slay people in his name.

Thank the gods I’m recovering.


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Prophets or Profiteers?

Alright, alright.  Some of you were a bit frightened by the post on extreme narcissism; wondering whether or not that describes you.  If you were wondering it probably doesn’t.  An extreme narcissist wouldn’t care.   But that wasn’t my intent in the least.

There is nothing wrong with a little healthy narcissism.  By that, I mean, self-esteem.  If you feel confident in your abilities, if you think you can make a difference in this world, and if sometimes you realize you must put yourself first and don’t feel guilty about doing it this is healthy narcissism.  I envy you!

It is difficult to be in a relationship with an extreme narcissist and maintain any level of self-esteem.  So if you are the kind of person who is always self-seeking to the detriment of others, if you make those around you afraid of your reaction to constructive criticism, if you demand undying and unwavering attention and adoration, well, you might have a problem.

Extreme narcissism has an element of psychopathy wrapped up in it.  As one psychologist put it:

In my career as a psychologist, two areas of particular interest to me have been psychopathy and narcissism. Psychopathy is generally viewed as a particularly virulent form of narcissism, in which the person is not only very much focused on herself, or himself, but also highly manipulative, sometimes sadistic, and very much into control and power. One prominent characteristic of psychopathy is the presence of what is usually called a “glib, superficial charm.” These people are usually able, at least in the short term, to win over others very easily. They would generally be described as “very attractive” people (on the surface). Sometimes a person who merits the designation “psychopath” goes into a path of criminal activity (many, but not all, serial killers are psychopaths, and criminals known as “con artists” are often psychopaths); other times, the psychopath will be engaged in a legitimate career (politics, academia, corporate leadership). The key is not the type of activity the person engages in, but the degree of control s/he exercises over others.

Underneath the superficial charm, the narcissist/psychopath always has a “me-first” mentality. If you work with such a person, you may begin to see signs that s/he thinks that everything is about her; and, crucially, it will become clear that control/power is a major part of her game plan. However, this can be well concealed beneath a veneer of friendliness and concern for others; it may not become clearly evident until s/he receives what is known as a “narcissistic injury.” A person who is truly narcissistic will respond with extreme anger if s/he receives a challenge to her ego (an ego that is both fragile, and strongly defended). This response may look like an overblown rage fit, following a minor slight; or it may take the form of a cold vindictiveness, administered by acts of retaliation. These responses can be very shocking, even frightening, to the person who unwittingly triggered or evoked the narcissistic injury (by getting in the way of the narcissist’s plans, for example, or by displaying a lack of full approval and appreciation for the narcissist’s brilliant ideas).   ~Delaney Dean

Hopefully that explains a bit better the force and control that a true narcissist exhibits.  These are the characteristics of extreme narcissism:

  • grandiosity
  • need for admiration
  • lack of empathy
  • extreme self-absorption
  • intolerance of others’ perspectives
  • insensitivity to others’ needs
  • indifference to the effect of their own egocentric behavior

Add to that a level of psychopathy:

  • failure to conform to social norms; repeated unlawful behaviors
  • deceitfulness, repeated lying, manipulation
  • impulsivity or failure to plan ahead
  • irritability and physical aggressiveness
  • reckless disregard for safety of self or others
  • consistent irresponsibility
  • lack of remorse, indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt or mistreated another

You know those crime dramas that portray some mastermind deviant who brainwashes and controls a minion to do his bidding?  You think to yourself, that’s sick and twisted!  Who would do that and who would follow him?  Right?  It’s not all that far-fetched.  Look at all the carnage left in wake of religious extremism.

To keep the favor of a narcissistic/psychopathic tyrant you must please them.  And on nothing more than faith in them do their bidding all the while telling them how great they are and thanking them for allowing you the privilege.  Never do your own thinking and for heaven’s sake never go against them for fear of retaliation.

I’d have to agree with Cognitive Dissenter who said, “I’ve decided God gets a bad rap that is fundamentally unfair, given the fact that he’s an invisible imaginary dude. The perfect scapegoat for the real narcissists who hide behind him. Time to give credit where credit is due.  It’s high time we tore the curtain down and saw things the way they really are and the way they’ve really always been.  Are there really any prophets of a God?  Or are they just profiting off of those who are willing or have been frightened into being willing follow?


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One-Sided: My Relationship With a Severe Narcissist

In the book “The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists” there is a list of questions to help you find out if you are in relationship with a Narcissist:

1. Do you frequently feel as if you exist to admire his or her special talents and sensitivities?

2. Do you frequently feel hurt or annoyed that you do not get your turn and, if you do, the interest and quality of attention is significantly less than the attention you give?

3. Do you sense an intense degree of pride in this person or feel reluctant to offer your opinions when you know they will differ from his or hers?

4. Do you often feel that the quality of your whole interaction will depend upon the kind of mood he or she is in?

5. Do you feel controlled by this person?

6. Are you afraid of upsetting him or her for fear of being cut off or retaliated against?

7. Do you have difficulty saying no?

8. Are you exhausted from the kind of energy drain or worry that this relationship causes you?

9. Have you begun to feel lonely in the relationship?

10. Do you often wonder where you stand in the relationship?

11. Are you in constant doubt about what’s real?

12. Are you reluctant to let go of this relationship due to a strong sense of protectiveness?

13. Are you staying in the relationship because of your investment of time and energy?

The author of the book points out that this struggle, of course, reflects codependent tendencies, but the author also points out that almost anyone will sink into these behaviors when involved with a severe Narcissist.

Narcissism is manifested on a spectrum, mild to severe.  But someone who is hard-wired with this disorder will never change.

Does any of this sound familiar?  Did you answer yes to any of these questions?  If so you are in a relationship with a narcissist.

I worshiped a narcissist.  His book promised me that he would meet all my needs according to his great riches in heaven.  He did not.  Oh, I convinced myself that as long as I woke each morning, had a place to sleep and clothes on my back that my needs were being met.  I felt I needed more than that, but I dare not ask.  After all look at all he had done for me.  I was lucky my narcissist gave me that much.  Looking around I see he withholds even the barest of necessities from a large sector of the populace.

Do you know what happens when parents feed, clothe and provide shelter to their children but do not meet their emotional needs? They die on the inside. They have difficulty forming emotional attachments and trusting another.  Yet they inevitably seem to chase after that which is most elusive:  the attention of the one who neglected them, trying oh so hard to appease and please.  Always consumed and expending energy in an attempt to keep the relationship going.

What happens when one realizes they are in such a relationship with an invisible God?  When the denial isn’t enough anymore?  When there is nothing left but the ashes of nothingness in a tightly clinched fist?  There is nothing left to do but open your hand and blow scattering ashes to the wind.


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Pious Piety: Speaking the Truth in Love

 or Ruth being an insufferable fundie.  Or is it fundy?  No matter.

In Ruth’s former life her ex-husband, Charles, had a cousin.  Jessica is a beautiful girl with long, curly, brunette hair, olive colored skin, and an athletic build.  She also has the voice of an angel.  She’s got some fancy name for the type of soprano she specializes in which isn’t coming to recollection at the moment, but she’s trained operatically, and has performed internationally.  A catch, you might say.

Now you know how devoutly Christian Charles’ entire family is.  Old School Christian mafia – Southern Baptist style.  So when Jessica brought her best friend to Thanksgiving no one thought anything of it.  Ruth did.  They sat awfully close together and the way they looked at each other, well, they were more than just friends.  Ruth said something to Charles about it and he just dismissed it, thought the idea was insane.  Nobody in this family would ever be…gay.  And they certainly wouldn’t bring their lover to Thanksgiving!  Not around the grandparents.  So Ruth dropped it.

After a while, though, jaws started flapping.  Jessica was bringing KrisAnne to everything.  Christmas, New Year’s, Sunday dinners.  They were pretty much joined at the hip.  So everybody started speculating.  This went on for quite a while and you can imagine the concern gossiping going on.

The next Thanksgiving Charles’ grandparents got an idea.  They’d go to Gatlinburg for the holiday and they wanted the whole family to join them.  Everybody, to a person, made the trip.  Including KrisAnne.  Charles decided it would be a good idea to find out the truth about the situation.  Didn’t sound like a bad idea so Ruth and Charles invited Jessica and KrisAnne out for dinner.

Small talk dominated the conversation over dinner, but after the plates were cleared and the coffee ordered Charles made his move.  “I’m just going to ask you what everybody else is speculating about,” he said to Jessica.  “Are you two in a relationship?  Are you…lesbians?”  Not sure how he could have gone about it, but there’s subtlety for you.  “I knew these questions were eventually coming.  I figured you’d all work this out for yourselves.  Yeah, we are.  We’re in a relationship just the same as you and Ruth.  We’ve prayed about it and know that this is right for us.”

This is where Ruth piped up.  “Jessica, I wouldn’t say this to you if I didn’t love you.  But I have to tell you we don’t agree with this.  You know what the Bible has to say about this.  It doesn’t make me love you any less, but this isn’t what God would want for you and I think you’re misguided if you think God has blessed this in any way.”

Jessica didn’t hesitate. “I’ve read the Bible and Jesus never said anything about homosexuality.  It’s not a sin.”

“Maybe not, but Paul had a lot to say about it.  And Jesus said he didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.  The law says that it is a sin,” Ruth asserted.

“Well, Paul was a woman hater.  Look, I’m a Christian, and I go by the red letters.”

They spent the car ride back with Jessica and KrisAnne justifying how scripture didn’t condemn them.  Amazingly Jessica and KrisAnne are still Christians.  Even more Amazingly Jessica and KrisAnne didn’t hold that conversation against Ruth or Charles. In fact they became pretty good friends and they never really talked about it again.

Ruth was convinced that she’d done  the right thing.  Ruth was smug and self-satisfied in her pious piety full of pietousness.  She’d told them, in love, the truth. What she believed was the truth anyway.  Now she knows better.  It was none of Ruth’s business.  She was really just self-righteous and arrogant.

There was more to the conversation.  This was Ruth’s first encounter with someone in the LBGT community.  While she’d never say so, over the years of watching Jessica and KrisAnne together she changed a lot of her views about homosexuality even if she did still think they were probably going to hell.  They put a face on what it even meant to be homosexual.  Up until that time it had been so demonized from the pulpit that Ruth thought it was perverted.  That homosexuality meant promiscuity, orgies, pedophilia, and deviance.

Here sat these two people who were in a faithful, exclusive, loving relationship.  It was…normal.  Ruth may never get to speak to Jessica and KrisAnne again, but if she did she’d tell them how wrong she’d been.  She’d tell them she was sorry for being an insufferable fundie.  She’d ask their forgiveness for being so judgemental. She’d tell them she knows they aren’t going to hell.


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What Harm May Come?

Today I was reading an article on Yahoo!News about the president’s announcement that he believes that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry entitled Gay marriage, Obama and the fierce urgency of now: Why did he do it this week?.  I say, “why does it matter?”  I tend to get more caught up in the ridiculous comments than the actual articles anyway.  Most of them are to the effect of:  “it’s the votes, stupid”.  So Obama changed his mind about the issue for votes?

I decided to do a little research of my own. According to this UCLA study less than 4% of American population identifies themselves as gay, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual.  A quick google search revealed studies with even lower numbers.  The lowest number I found was 1.7%.  So lets just say somewhere between 1% and 4% identify themselves as part of that group.  Interestingly when polled a quarter of the public said they believed that number was significantly higher – 25%.

The President chose a controversial, politically charged issue to “change his mind” about just before a major election for relatively few votes?  To what effect?  I would have thought that the majority (not all, of course) of those who make up the LGBT community would have already held their alliances with the Democratic Party.  To what end would President Obama have made this announcement, at this time?

The article referenced suggested it was money.  If the LGBT community has money to give to a candidate, and they already identify with the Democratic Party, wouldn’t they have already been giving their money to the Obama Campaign?  And who in the world thinks that the same-sex marriage issue is the most important issue of this campaign anyway? Not even the LGBT community. So, again, I ask what does Obama have to gain?

Now about those ridiculous comments.  I went back to try and find one in particular that struck me.  Someone had commented that (and I paraphrase because I couldn’t find it) with 70% of Americans firmly against same-sex marriage this amounted to political suicide.  Where did that statistic come from?  Again, a quick google search revealed the following:

August 2009 LifeWay Research Poll: 61% of those who were born between 1980 and 1991 agree with same-sex marriage.

2012 Gallup Poll: 50% of Americans support the legalization of same-sex marriage

2012 Pew Research Poll: “A slim majority (52%) of Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, and 44% oppose. The survey also found religious liberty concerns were active among a subset of those who oppose same-sex marriage. When Americans who initially oppose same-sex marriage are asked whether they would support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry if the law guaranteed that no church or congregation would be required to perform marriages for gay and lesbian couples, support for allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry increases 6 points, from 52% to 58%.”

If these polls are any indication the legalization of same-sex marriage is on the horizon.  But why?  Remember that only 1.7% to 4% of the population identifies as LGBT.  I would suggest that the rest of us have begun to recognize what the fundies who spout all their religious garbage in the comment section have failed to:  same-sex marriage has no effect on the sanctity of marriage.  None.

The sanctity of marriage can only be upheld between two partners who espouse the view that their marriage is sacred.  Marriage is not even sacred if only one of the partners believe it to be. Why?  Most likely the partner who feels that their bond with their mate is not sacred will do something to violate the covenant.

If there were only one couple in the entire world who believed that their marriage was sacred, it would be.  The fact that no one else believes that would make it no less so. To whom is marriage sacred?  It is sacred to two individuals who decide to make a life together in partnership with one another in good faith and covenant together to set that relationship above all others with honesty and integrity.  Is it a god who makes a marriage sacred?  I submit that it is not.  It is the people in the marriage who make it sacred.

Merriam Webster defines sacred as:

1
a : dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity <a tree sacred to the gods>
b : devoted exclusively to one service or use (as of a person or purpose) <a fund sacred to charity>
2
a : worthy of religious veneration : holy
b : entitled to reverence and respect
3
: of or relating to religion : not secular or profane <sacred music>
4
archaic : accursed
5
b : highly valued and important <a sacred responsibility>

Heterosexual couples have not cornered the market on relationships which are unassailable, inviolable, wholly devoted exclusively to one another, revering and respecting one another, that are highly valued and important.  Try as they might to convince themselves and others that God is the one who has defined it as between one man and one woman Christians would have to admit he sure has done a lousy job of sanctifying it.  Christian marriages fall apart at the same rate as non-Christian marriages.  One in two fails.

Will allowing same-sex marriage suddenly and radically alter the percentage of Americans who identify as LGBT?  What harm may come from allowing this relatively small percentage of the population feel human? Is that going to cause some mad rush on heterosexuals getting divorced?  Newsflash:  that’s already happening.

It’s time to dump DOMA.  It’s unconstitutional.  It is nothing short of religious in nature.  For anyone out there reading this who is against same-sex marriage, I leave you with this:

Join the evolution! 14 Steps That Will Evolve Your Views on Gay Marriage