What is Normal?
I spent time with a friend today, who told me all about her mother that has no boundaries. The mother told her (the mother’s) neighbor that my friend has shingles. She took her mother to task for that. Why on earth does the neighbor need to know? Her mother has done weirder things than this, even with me present.
It reminds me of my family and work situations. I blogged about dodging a bullet with a co-worker who wanted me to tell others what to do (“You’re not telling them. You’re guiding them,” she said), to which I had a visceral “Are you freaking kidding me?” type of response.
Here’s the context. About a decade and a half ago, I joined the Greek Orthodox church. (Wow, is that a long story in and of itself.) There was this woman I instantly got along with (a bad, bad sign given my family’s total lack of appropriate boundaries). People kept warning me about her, saying she was controlling and/or just plain nuts. I maintained my relationship with her because she always treated me well, although her presents were very odd and assorted behaviors seemed off-kilter. She was one of the most fascinating people I have ever met. She actually knows church history and I could have an intelligent conversation with her about topics that interest me, a rarity.
But she was basically stalking the priest. Sending him long, emotional emails and looking to always speak with him. It was Holy Week. The priest informed me that if she tried to speak with him the following week, “she won’t get the best of me.”
She and I are talking on the phone and she says she will speak to the priest the next week. I say, “Not a good idea.” She says, “It’s important.”
I say, “Fine. But you’ve been warned. I will not protect you. And I don’t want to hear about it when it blows up in your face and it so will.”
That was basically the end of our relationship after five or six years of being extraordinarily close. She was essentially kicked out of the church. And I learned a massive amount regarding narcissistic personality disorder and what the signs are.
This is why I am so exultant that I avoided the relationship with the co-worker. I never, ever want to go through that again.
I must be attracting these people into my life, along with people that, like me, come from families that don’t seem to have any boundaries. Some families must have boundaries. It is kind of like when I tell people, “I am sure that people exist that do not abuse alcohol and that can drink socially. I’m just not related to any of them.” I think I am attracting some more normal-ish people into my life, but I am starting to suspect that functional people might be the minority.
The reason I feel so lucky is because I am particularly vulnerable right now, with Barry’s death less than a year ago. I could really use some more friends right about now. And, worse still, I have spent most of my adulthood looking for mentors. The lady at the Orthodox church took me under her wing as a newbie. I have always wanted role models worth looking up to. In my life, it has always seemed like the people most intent on telling me what to do with my life have had theirs spinning out of control. And, to make matters even more severe, part of me really wants to impart wisdom into the next generation. The idea of “You’re not telling them what to do. You’re guiding them,” is unbelievably seductive to me at this stage of my life.
But I can just imagine the awkward conversation with one of the managers when other employees start complaining about me telling them what to do. How would it sound to a real manager if a peon said, “I’m not telling them what to do. I’m guiding them,”? I am so glad I never have to have that conversation.
But the vulnerability is still there. I still seek mentors. And I do want to pass on my hard-earned wisdom to upcoming generations. I am trying not to allow my unmet emotional needs to kick my ass once again. It’s just hard to know what’s appropriate, given my history, familial and otherwise.