Thoughts from the Red Mug coffee shop

As I sit here in the Red Mug Coffee shop having a latte with an extra shot I am going through jitters over what I have planned for today. I am tearing out the walls of my camper and throwing out the old rotten insulation and putting in new foam insulation so I don’t freeze to death this winter. Because the old insulation got wet due to a tree falling on the camper before I got it, there is mold inside the camper so I have been Lysoling the bare walls as I strip the old stuff out. The Lysol works by the way. Spray and wait then wipe down. Repeat till all the mold is gone. Make sure your windows are open so it can air out well.

Why have I got the jitters? I am still nervous that I can’t fix things myself. I am faced with the fact that women are not encouraged to fix things, that construction and remodeling and fixing are a man’s realm so it’s almost like we learn helplessness unless we have forward thinking fathers who teach us to fix stuff. As I said before, my dad was not forward thinking so I am virginal in this realm. If I die this winter it will be by my own ineptitude. I have sought advice over and over as to how to correctly install foam insulation and paneling and now all that remains is to actually do the thing.

In America women are told they can do anything but they are also restrained by lesser pay and opportunity as if to be reminded who is really in charge. A recent Pew Research study found that women in majority male workplaces report higher rates of gender discrimination.

This sense of “needing a man” for certain things is pervasive in a way to me that I did not realize about myself. I did not know how much I accepted or subscribed to the notions that there is “women’s work” and there is “men’s work,” and you don’t cross the lines unless you want to be perceived as unmarriageable. I grew up a Generation Xer and was taught girls should be quiet and agreeable and talk about his interests and wait to be asked to dance and wait for his phone call and basically be all about him. Thank God the world is evolving and relationships are coming to be seen as a shared responsibility with roles not so sharply defined. I can be feminine and fix things. I can be a voluptuous woman and sweat like a man.

This was a surprising thing to discover about myself, how conservative I’d held male and female roles even though I consider myself to be a progressive person. There is no black and white. Plenty of women do men’s work well. Just look at World War II.

These women are my inspiration as I begin the process of stripping the old and useless and rotten out of my camper and in the process strip the same old and useless ideas whose time has expired out of me. These points which I talked about in the previous entry are continuing to be a springboard for me to grow and expand. My camper and I are getting better together.


I used to be bogged down in lack. I was always wishing for what I did not have, and feeling as if I were not enough in myself. I felt I was always found lacking. What that thinking did was create endless lack. I never had enough time, enough money, and I felt always that I was not pretty enough, not good enough.

Lack created more lack. Years of failure in finding a good paying job, failure in relationships including the most important ones with God and myself, because I’d get angry at God for all the hardship I experienced, and I have to tell you, this negative thought pattern makes a person depressed, tired all of the time and even despairing.

I think going through bad times for what feels like endless spans of time did bring me closer to God so there was purpose in it I did not see. I don’t know what brought my mind around to a position of gratitude. I hope it was God. I think it may be God. I got one of those free gratitude journal apps, and every day I had to write down three things that happened I was grateful for.

Change your story from lack to abundance! Change your thinking!

Then my life started to change for the better. Little by little abundance started flowing in. Not money necessarily. More love for God translated to more caring for others and more love for myself in that I started caring about taking care of me physically, mentally and spiritually. Exercise. Doing little nice things for me. I started doing more to be of service to others while setting firm boundaries so that people might respect me. The ones who respected me respected my boundaries. This curious thing happened where people who no longer served my highest good, friends who weren’t really friends, who did not respect my boundaries or me, started showing themselves for who they were and gradually fell away. In so doing I felt sad and disillusioned, but over a short time I began to understand I felt better mentally not having these people around to drag me down and make me codependent and an enabler as a result of codependency. I felt less taken advantage of and more self confident in my own decision making and in voicing my needs and desires, which had not happened consistently before. Because I felt better in myself I felt ever more grateful to God for feeling better, and even though materially nothing had changed, I began to feel content with what I had. I stopped wanting more stuff. I started praying differently too. I used to ask God for this and that and please could You fix this and that. I found myself spending a lot of time thanking Him for all I had and for my kids, my health, my mom, my family, for whatever blessings I’d received that day whether it be the ten bucks my mom sent me or the free turkey from work. God wants us to live in gratitude and in abundance. Abundant peace, abundant joy, love, kindness, gentleness, faith. He supplies our needs and He starts us out with little so that we might grow to be thankful for much. No matter how little you have, be grateful. Someone is always worse off than you. Even they have much to be thankful for. Look for the blessings. They are there always, the silver lining during our darkest hours.

Get a gratitude app!

I keep doing the gratitude journal app. If you do nothing else for yourself please download one. Most are free and it trains your mind to be more thankful and more positive. Thankfulness changes your entire outlook and perception to one of plenty instead of one of lack. It makes every day more sacred to be thankful to God for all you have no matter how poor or rich you may be.

Gratitude will change your life. I promise.


Tonight a snow is falling that calls for stillness. There is no wind so it is falling straight down. I stand outside in it looking up feeling soft flakes caress my face and noting as I stand that the flakes that land on my gloved hands are tiny miracles of fractal art. No two are alike. They stay on my glove for a moment then the warmth of my hand melts the snowflake and it is as if it never was. Yet it was and its temporary presence made a difference to me; I experienced beauty and it taught me that something quiet and still contains a lifetime within it in which we fully are present or can be if we are willing to be still.

I have a tendency to react in a fear based way to situations which are really out of my control. As I have grown older I have learned and still learn the virtue of stepping back, disengaging and allowing the difficulty to dissipate and myself to flex around it instead of fighting change or trying to control whatever it is.

I stand in the falling snow in the silence of the night and in those moments the world is quiet and time expands encapsulating the silence as a balm to my soul. The world moves too quickly and we think we control it all. We do not; control is an illusion and we reap the disservice the illusion portrays: disease related to stress, heart problems, anxiety.

I take the time to meditate and I see a place by a still pond in my mind. He leadeth me beside the still water.

(Photo taken by author Allegheny Reservoir, Allegheny National Park)

Religious ideas have the same advice: Be still.

  • Be still and know that I am God (God is in control)
  • Too many words cause exhaustion

[In the mind or from the mouth]

Better to abide in stillness.

Lao Tzu

  • If we sit with an increasing stillness of the body, and attune our mind to the sky or to the ocean or to the myriad stars at night, or any other indicators of vastness, the mind gradually stills and the heart is filled with quiet joy. Also recalling our own experiences in which we acted generously or with compassion for the simple delight of it without expectation of any gain can give us more confidence in the existence of a deeper goodness from which we may deviate. (39)

Ravi Ravindra, The Wisdom of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras: A New Translation and Guide by Ravi Ravindra

  • If ever you do go back, what is it you want of Evesham?”

“Do I know? […] The silence, it might be … or the stillness. To have no more running to do … to have arrived, and have no more need to run. The appetite changes. Now I think it would be a beautiful thing to be still. Ellis Peters, A Rare Benedictine (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, prequel stories 0.1-0.3)

God lives in the stillness. Listen and you will hear His still, small voice.


I have run wild across the land and

hunkered down in snow I have hunted for the food that nourishes and found only bones

I have borne pups and raised them until they forayed into the wider world and

now I roam again beside

great inner oceans

I sing over bones and they stir faintly

they speak to me in whispers I cannot yet make out

my ears dart forward and I nose the bones

Willing them to live

they are me long dead perhaps and perhaps they are glad I have found them

I will lie here until the breath of life fills them


four times you have dug me up

peeled the skin away from my extremities

Cracked my ribs open to peer at my heart

and not content with looking

sliced it open scalpel at the ready

you oh vivisectionist, reveling in my dry and rotted flesh watched

as the blood drained from me and

I grew progressively cold

and whiter

you could not wait until I was dead before you peeled the muscle from my bones

my screams of pain your face impassive I the


you will not find my humanity in my bones

torturer you cannot wear it like a second skin oh if you could disguise yourself

Hannibal Lecter of humans

eater of emotion


of loving souls

how many skeletons of those who went before me are buried in your basement deep abyss black pitiless intent your

mind their faces your face interchangeable

I see you standing over the bodies nightly in the dark

pondering your next victim


Surrender, narcissism, self-love, and a resolution


Know thyself.  This was the inscription on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Socrates says, as he did in Phaedrus, that people make themselves appear ridiculous when they are trying to know obscure things before they know themselves. Plato also alluded to the fact that understanding ‘thyself,’ would have a greater yielded factor of understanding the nature of a human being. Lao Tzu says that “mastering others is strength, but mastering yourself is true power.”   I have been thinking a lot about introspection, and self examination.   A singular event that happened over the course of the last two years has caused me to think differently about self-examination and focus more on the idea of self-acceptance which is a huge part of self-love.   I think we all focus too much on what is wrong with us, or with other people, instead of the idea that we can be and maybe should be okay with who it is we are right now.   Because we will always be imperfect.  Perhaps it’s a good idea to get right with that idea right now.   I’m going to tell you about the greatest teacher I ever had who taught me the importance of loving myself. He was the person who betrayed every meaning of the word “friend,”  who did not know what love was, and so treated me with a lack of love bordering on pure disdain.  I thank him today for the experience I had with him, because today, I understand in a profound way that loving myself means things I never realized before, which I will get to and describe to you by the end.  I promise.   Teachers are everywhere, dear reader, and often times the best teachers are the people who aren’t really very nice.  I am posting this with the hope that it will help other people who may not realize they are dealing with a narcissistic personality, not to malign anyone.    I hold  no ill will against anyone, not against this person because I realize that they can’t help it; they are to be pitied, because even  with therapy it is almost impossible for them to be able to change. It is my hope that this article helps the person I’ve discussed and others who fear they may have NPD.   Almost impossible. Sometimes,  if someone who exhibits traits of NPD becomes self-aware, with the right help they can over time, turn things around.  Psychology Today states:

Many have suggested that NPD emerges from an environment in which vulnerability comes to feel dangerous, representing, at worst, either a grave defect, or at best, a stubborn barrier to becoming a worthwhile human being (that’s simplifying a great deal of research and theory, but it’s a workable summary); hence, the correlation between narcissism and insecure attachment styles, in which fears of depending on anyone at all engender constant attempts to control the relationship or avoid intimacy altogether. If you devote yourself to directing interactions or holding people at arms length, it’s a lot harder to become vulnerable (needless to say, the “safety” is largely an illusion). People with NPD have learned to ignore, suppress, deny, project, and disavow their vulnerabilities (or at least try) in their attempts to shape and reshape “who they are” in their interactions. Change—allowing the vulnerability back in— means opening up to the very feelings they’ve learned to avoid at all costs. It’s not that people with NPD can’t change; it’s that it often threatens their sense of personhood to try.  And their failed relationships often confirm, in their minds, that narcissism is the safest way to live.

I had a friend who was my best friend.  He was kind and generous and listened to me.  He seemed to accept me for who I was, and over  the course of the twenty odd years we knew one another, I developed  over time, an absolute trust in him because I felt he accepted me for who I was and where I came from.   I told him things I didn’t share with anyone else. He made me feel safe. I came from a turbulent home life.  I experienced things that were not good that he said he had never experienced.   I thought he came from a good home life. He seemed interested in showing me a different life from what I knew and I thought he knew better than me.  I trusted his judgment.  I trusted his ideas about things.   I loved him for what I thought was his kindness and patience.

I was not one to make waves.  I avoided confrontation at all costs. I feared it.  I wanted peace all of the time.  I was the kind of person who would give everything for others often at the expense of myself.   I never minded helping others except I did not know until quite recently that giving at the expense of oneself is damaging to me, because what tends to happen is that a person wears themselves out giving and most of the time, is taken advantage of, or just becomes exhausted mentally, physically and spiritually with all of this giving.   I know lots of women like that.   Women in society are conditioned to be givers, and I believe that this has been to our detriment.  Giving is wonderful, no doubt about it, and we should all give as we are able–but there is the caveat.   To give as we are able–not to give until we’re spent on others, when we should be loving ourselves, giving to ourselves.

Everything in moderation the Bible advises, and this goes for giving until you’re spent, and loving yourself to the point of narcissism.  There is a happy medium.  I erred on the side of being overly generous, with my love, my money and my time, while my friend erred on the side of being narcissistic to the point where everything and everybody had to change for him–he never had to change anything about himself. He was very good at psychological manipulation. A good blog that talks about that and explains more of what I experienced is here.He followed the narcissistic pattern of lovebomb, devalue then discard. He said we were soulmates. He announced we were getting married. He had to talk to me constantly. Emails flew back and forth. Four months went by. He said he wanted me to move in.

When I did move in suddenly things changed on a dime. No more affection. Like boom. He said he loved me then outlined over thirty things about me he said had to go as a result of the way I grew up.  He was “helping” me. When I objected he told me “help doesn’t look like help.” He repeated this over and over until he had me believing it because I thought he knew better than me how to be healthy mentally. I trusted him. Never mind I’d had years of counseling for the way I grew up and had become equipped to understand that part of my life and how it affected me.   He became, of his own will, my counselor and psychiatrist, when I’d never asked him to be either one.   Then he lowered the boom and told me after telling me for months what a wonderful future God had for us being together, promising me a future, that  none of that was going to happen until God changed those thirty things about me.   He told me I couldn’t change myself. He told me to give up control. Over time, he got me so  upset and  discombobulated that I felt a state of desperation about myself that this future with him seemed to hinge on whether or not I could get it together with myself.  I was the one holding everything back.  He was the one who came from the good home life.   I was the one messing us all up.  Worse, he said I had to be still and let God do the changing of me.  Over how long?  How long was this going to take?  He didn’t want me to leave, but we no longer had a relationship either, and I was left sleepless and crying over many nights with him in the next room. I lay there trying to figure out what the hell had happened.  We went from him lovebombing me, to a surprise marriage proposal to all of a sudden there were all these things wrong with me that had to be fixed to have any relationship at all.  I was devastated.  I was crushed.  He watched me cry over so many nights impassively, with this blank and empty look on his face.   He did not try to ever comfort me.  He made it plain he did not like anything about me. He picked apart how I ate, how I walked, and my sense of humor, which he said was uncultured. He didn’t like how I talked. I felt he did not like much about me except my intelligence.  Yet when I got into a good school, he questioned  whether God wanted me to do that.   Always planting doubts.  Never uplifting.  Never encouraging.

He told me God took away his love so I wouldn’t be distracted by it while God was fixing me.  So I could concentrate on my “transformation” as he called it.  He moved me into the spare room. He treated me with the same distant politeness you would treat company. He fed me.  He monitored what I ate. He expected me to be weighed daily. He gave me a nice room.  And then he shut himself in his room for hours.   If we spent time together it was either exercising for six to eight hours a day because I wasn’t thin enough and he was “concerned about my health.”  Or watching television with him using shows to make some point of where I was deficient or broken. Fair enough.   He was a runner when he was young.  I thought he knew better than me so I got into this boot camp program he started. I thought he was self-sacrificing for doing this with me, for carrying 20 pounds of water on his back every day for us.   On these walks he talked incessantly about how I had to be patient with the process and get my anger out. He insisted I was angry even though I was not. He needled me about being angry until I got angry. Then a triumphant look would cross his face and he would say “that anger needs to go.” On the other hand, confusingly, he withheld affection. He sidelined me, my opinions, and isolated me from his family.  Sometimes if I objected to how he was treating me he got angry and yelled at me. He brought up how old girlfriends still wanted him and how lucky I was he was paying attention to me. He did not want his colleagues knowing about me.  He spent progressively less time with me until it got to where he wouldn’t come home from work till eight at night. I suspected there was someone else and he angrily denied it. With narcissists, when they are in the devalue stage they need a new form of narcissistic supply so in this stage there is always someone else. But they keep you on a string in case things don’t work out supply wise with the other woman or women. They’re like drug addicts. They have the ability to compartmentalize the other women so they don’t know about each other but provide him with continuous supply. Because that’s how narcissists get their excitement–through manipulation of others. Their lives are boring. They can’t feel anything so they crave the power and excitement of screwing with others’ heads. They love adulation and sex and then they love kicking the chair out from under the ones adoring them to make them feel better about themselves. There is always someone else. They simply do not have the ability to love or commit. He made me doubt my intuition.

Red flags started going up in my head.   My dad did the same stuff to my mother. Know thyself.  Know where you come from. 


Through all of this, for months, he promised me this glorious future with him, when God changed me. He said I didn’t love myself.  He knew my weaknesses, like that one, because he had known me so long; it was true.  I did not love myself.   I had been put down most of my life by my dad, by a lot of people, and so I did not have much of a favorable opinion of me.   The enforced exercising, which I got to actually enjoy after a while, because it did get results coupled with the trauma bonding with him was a confusing experience.  That is the only other thing that was good that came out of this whole thing.  I lost a lot of weight.   I had been losing a lot of weight before I even showed up to live with him so like everything, his compliments were always left handed.    Everything he knew about me was ammunition against me. Even though I lost a lot before I showed up, to him, I was still fat and he said so with a bald faced honesty that bordered on being cruel.   He made me angry because that’s all everybody had said about me all of my life.   You’re fat.  Don’t you think you should lose some weight?  You’d look so much better if you lost a few pounds.   And then when I did, when I worked for a year to lose almost 100 pounds, here’s another person saying in not so many words that all that work I’d accomplished wasn’t good enough.   Moreover, he said it like I didn’t already know I wasn’t down to my goal weight.  I’d told him that before I even showed up.  I knew I had more to do.    Why couldn’t he say “Hey, I know you’ve been working hard to lose weight and be healthy.  Maybe we could do it together!”   That would have been supportive.  He chose cruelty and made it look like support.    Even after I lost another sixty pounds it still changed nothing. I was still not good enough for him. That is when I gave up. That is when something in me changed.

There were days he treated me with almost unbelievable cruelty with his words and lack of regard.  Then there were days when he was kind and attentive again. It was confusing, it was frightening and it was, as I came to understand, not my fault.    This one truth that God put in my heart would become the single cause for relief and joy that gave me the strength to put and end to a lifelong friendship that was never really a real friendship at all—a friendship I couldn’t fathom being without—and I had to learn to put my faith in the God of the unknown–and trust that everything would be all right in the end without my friend there at all. When I confronted him about his behavior he turned on the silent treatment which is punishment. It is also abuse.

To make a long story short, I left him after two years, five months of which was me being consistently and systematically torn down by him.  Two years of waiting for a man who systematically and deliberately over time withdrew affection and sowed doubt about his love, the future of our relationship and who made me feel like it all hinged on me, using God as his justification. My performance.  My looks. Then the silent treatment. It was that one thing that led me to websites where the truth was revealed to me and I felt so much relief that this wasn’t my fault and it wasn’t all in my head. I was freed.

I believe God put a stop to things before they went too far.

  1.  My plans are my plans—but God, the universe—has better plans for me.  I trust that now.  I had to learn to trust that in the process of letting him go, which was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  I had to work through the idea that he was not an expert, that it wasn’t his job to change me, it was God’s, and that God expects us to love one another where we are at right now because He loves us where we are at right now.
  2. I deserve better than a “friend” who picks me apart all of the time and makes me feel badly about myself. I deserve supportive friends who make me feel positive about myself and my life and my God.   He is not one of them anymore.
  3. I deserve not to spend endless hours in self-examination because while self-examination is good, it can quickly spiral into narcissism.
  4. I deserve to be able to be myself unabashedly with the right person who is meant to love me for who I am, not who he wants me to be.   The right person doesn’t keep moving the goal posts.  The right person accepts my weaknesses, and we grow and learn and change together, over time.  The right person inspires change. The wrong person demands change.

Hurt people hurt people.  I understand this about my old friend.  Somewhere in his past he was hurt to the point where he can no longer feel anything and made him the way he is today.   I can sympathize, and through the grace of God I can forgive him, because I know he does not know what he has done. However, self-love means that I do not have to put up with nonstop criticism, belittling, sidelining and a hundred other actions that are designed to dehumanize me and make me feel unimportant to a person who claims to have loved me.   None of those things are love.  No matter how much he insisted it was.

He taught me that I deserve so much better than what he had to offer.  I thank God for that and I thank him for that.   I believe with all my heart that I will be blessed with the person I deserve. Someone better for me than even I can comprehend.   So the surrender part comes in here.   No more plans.  No more trying.  This experience taught me that just because someone says it’s from God, just because even I might believe it is from God doesn’t mean it is from God.  Sometimes it takes a little time for that clarity to be revealed.    God would never want any of his children to live in that kind of unending unhappiness, despair, lack of love, sadness and grief for life. He used just enough of it to teach me that He loves me so much that I deserve the best He has to give.

My friend was not that gift.    Not to be my husband but the real gift was using him to teach me about loving myself although he did not realize that.

My resolution:

  • I’m not spending any more time around people who are overly critical of me.   Ive been  listening to people “suggest” how I can change all of my life.   I change what I can after thoughtful introspection, but I will always be imperfect.   I deserve to have friends who can embrace that I will always be imperfect too.
  • I am doing what I want, when I want, how I want.  If I want to get a tattoo, I’m going to get one.  If I want to take a trip, I’m going to take one.   If I have an opinion about something, I’m going to give it (with consideration and when appropriate).     I am not hiding for fear of what other people think anymore.
  • If you don’t like me, there’s the door.   Period.

I love myself too much to waste any more of my life on people who don’t like me, don’t appreciate me, and who don’t want me around.

I love myself.   I value myself, and in valuing myself, I can value others without depleting  myself.

life counseling





abashedly shy and you liked

to hear me talk of dreams and

butterflies and you dug that hole

in the backyard for my potatoes but

I think now it was really a grave

for the illusion you wove

for the sweet, tender hearted boy who loved me

the brooding silent one who lives inside you snatched you in the night replacing you with him

angry condescension morphing into that cruel leer as you knifed me or maybe he

repeatedly with his words that other

one the dark one the one with no remorse

who occupied your mind the one

who made you go down that dark well and

scoop out dead snakes I wonder if

the serpents crawled inside your head and stayed and grew wrapping themselves around your spine

and their venom courses through

you him that distant dark memory alive

weaving and cutting holes in your soul


perhaps the fairies came and took you in

that well perhaps the dark

stranger who sat across from me with that blank psychopathic stare that triumphant smirk as you he

cut me open in our nightly bloodletting immune to my pain but entranced by


is not you at all

the hole gapes in the ground

the well


the darkness far below the


We the walking shadows fighting

for the light

we lost


only the changeling remaining


Everything is quiet now

like the day after

The earthquake

nothing is as it was nor ever can be

and I am left staring at the detritus wondering if I lit the fuse

or you

what if id just gone along and

been still

what if id stood up for me

who were you really jumbled up in my mind remembering how you told me God came

To you

Spoke to you

like some Old Testament prophet

promised you we would marry you said

how you held me remembering how we planned our wedding our secret plans for Florida remembering how you wanted me constantly calling you hours on the phone hundreds of emails love bombing me move in with me you said

when I got there then you picked me up and

hurled me over the precipice


watched impassively as I fell.

God took my love for you

You said.

Don’t go you said.

I heartbroken shattered


Bewildered stayed

where did the love go not understanding it was never there oh no God took it he will give it back when you’re ready

I believed


twenty five plus years of knowing nothing about you

suddenly revealed

what you knew about me an unending supply of ammunition


you stopped one day while we walked you’re fat you said

words punching me in the stomach so proud of the weight I’d lost losing more

Insignificant you said

triumph seeing my anger and confusion

and that was the beginning of

the end I with no defenses while

Daily the bombs fell.

I hate how you eat you said

I hate how you look you said

I hate how you walk you said

I don’t like the way you talk you said

I don’t like your sense of humor you said

I don’t like where you came from your family are hillbillies you said

you’re uncultured you said

can’t have you around my family you said till I teach you to walk and talk and eat and act like a lady you said all dancing around in my head simultaneously remembering how smart you thought I was once how funny and vivacious you said I was beautiful we made loverunning into remembering late at night I on one side of your wall you on the other all leading up to the day when you said

You’re mentally ill and

we’ll never have anything until you’re fixed you said.

and you were going to wait and have faith and pray for me while God fixes me

You saint.

You saint.

poking away in my past pushing buttons doing all the things that hurt me I the child you the parent controlling what I ate what I drank how far we walked how I talked while

convincing me how different you are how good you are how healthy you are how while taking me apart brick by brick day by day


I am pieces I try to reassemble during the day when you are not there

when you gone is a relief

When you gone means I am free


I am nothing more than invisible to you nothing more than someone you used to know nothing more

nothing more than


I’m helping you, you said.

You’re too sensitive you said.

You should be grateful you said.

I give you everything you said.

Funny how words are worse than atomic bombs how they destroy the soul shatter the heart wound worse than shrapnel

“You’ll deserve me one day,” you said.

was I saved from you or by you or

was I dumped by you

God knows better than I

He set me free

He said.