Monday, November 20, 2017

Writing During the Holidays and Tale of a Narcissistic Lover

At our November meeting of the Women’s Writing Circle, I passed out copies of a blog post listing reasons Christmas and Hanukkah offer opportunities to write. We are around a lot of people, including those we haven’t seen in quite a while. They tend to share heartfelt stories brought on by the time of year, infused as it is with longing, sentimentality and grief.

We might be on vacation from work and time for long walks and reflection also provide grist for the writer’s mill.

What are you saying? the woman wailed. The post was written by a man. Where do women find the time to write? What do men know about baking cookies, decorating the house for Christmas, shopping and wrapping gifts? Still, I suggested, consider getting up early when the house is quiet and devoting half an hour to yourself and your writing. 


On Friday I met a woman I hadn't seen in years for lunch. She despaired of spending her first Christmas in as long as she could remember without a husband or boyfriend. A widow, she related a story. I doubt if she would have told me this if Thanksgiving hadn’t been less than a week away. After her husband’s terrible illness and death, she got involved with a narcissist. Emotionally and physically abusive to her, he consumed her thoughts. That’s how toxic he is, she said.

What is it about narcissists she asked, quickly answering her own question. “They are predators” and hook you early on pretending to adore and admire you only to exert an extreme form of control over your life. They isolate you from friends and family. Your sole purpose is to reflect back to them their own "glory."

As the sun shone through the restaurant windows and we sipped our tea, I shared that the same unfortunate scenario unfolded after John’s death. I wrote about it in Again in a Heartbeat. He preyed on me at my most vulnerable time. His narcissism, coupled with my own sexual infatuation, resulted in a painful and traumatic experience. Yes, my friend nodded. 

She continued to share her story, as if she couldn't stop thinking of him, couldn't stop trying to make sense of why she still missed him. One night after she had challenged him on some minor point, he pushed her down the stairs. This still didn’t bring closure. She knew the relationship would never work, but he was the one who ended up breaking it off. Her confession resonated with me. For years, I continued to think about my abuser, wonder what he was doing, who he was dating. And this is why I wrote about it. Writing helps make sense of things.

Perhaps this is serendipity, my friend suggested, although she admitted the thought of writing scared her. She was afraid what she might discover. I told her I might write about this, about her story. "I'm fine with that," she said. Us meeting for lunch and talking about relationships had uncanny similarities, she mused. Or perhaps the holidays open us to reflecting where we have been and where we are going, sorting through concerns that have plagued us and offering valuable insights.

On Saturday I taught a memoir workshop at the local library. Several of the participants wrote about Christmases past; traumatic events or loved ones no longer with them. Their memories vivid, the writing popped.

If you write during the holidays and as the
year draws to a close, consider lessons learned: “I fell in love with a narcissist” because he honed in on my loneliness after the death of my husband. What does this say about me? Am I co-dependent? Did it feel familiar because my mother or father was a narcissist? Was this a way to avoid confronting my grief?

Exploring and reflecting is healthy and cathartic. Instead of baking too many cookies or going overboard buying gifts, why not take this time to do something for yourself …write. Better yet … write every day.

How about you? Do holidays jumpstart new writing? What strategies do you use to set aside time for writing during this hectic time of the year?

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