I can’t remember an interaction with anyone as a child, outside of school or with polite strangers out in public, that didn’t end in some kind of negativity.
Sometimes they could get through a conversation without it devolving into a screaming match or worse, but not often enough. Sometimes they’d wait until whoever they were being fake nice to at the moment left the room or even just turned their attention away enough for an eyeroll to go by undetected,but I noticed and took notes and mimicked them because it was all I knew as the youngest in the tribe.
As unbelievable as it sounds, my parents and siblings and aunts and uncles and cousins and everyone we knew seemed to have the same narcissistic bent to them. It seemed to me then, and still does looking back, that central California isn’t just growing vast quantities of America’s food but also millions of narcissists ripe for the harvest every year. I say this because I’m sure it didn’t magically end when we left back in the early nineties.
Narcissism seems to just run through the culture and for someone who is highly sensitive, wants to just be grounded and down-to-earth and have genuine relationships with other people based on respect, civility and – dare I say – love, it’s toxic as hell to be around them. It feels like you are trying to have a relaxing swim in your pool but someone swapped the warm water out for acetone.
I had no idea that this particular personality disorder existed but I did know when I mimicked the behaviors I grew up witnessing I felt AWFUL. I hated myself, I hated everyone else and I hated the world. In fact, I hated life itself back then and was like a big ball of negative energy. A lifetime of watching people backstab and beat each other down (literally) had taken its toll on me before I really ever formed my core personality and it makes me sad now, looking back at the lost potential.
Hard feelings flooded through my veins because I was tapped into the dark, ugly current of it that ran through the San Joaquin valley. It watered the crops of narcissists that grew there, including my own clan and the only way I could survive was to cut off all contact with as many of them as possible and find a place where I could heal and hopefully thrive one day.
If you had told thirteen year old me way back then, as I was climbing out of my bedroom window at midnight to go run the streets and party all night with dozens of other kids just like me that one day I’d be sitting here on my little homestead, completely contented with life with the Tetons over my shoulder and my sled dogs sleeping peacefully in a semi-circle all around me, writing about surviving the madness happening in that house so long ago on Hacienda Avenue, I think she would have told you you were full of shit and laughed in your face.