South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday)
ASK AMY His carpentry skills are not enough
DearAmy: Iamina terrible relationship of two tumultuous years duration.
Imet him after recovering froman operation. I had been alone for years, as my lifewas consumed by raisingmy children, pulling a boy out of awar zone, and teaching music.
Unfortunately, my boyfriend is a liar. He’s had another girlfriend, he is an alcoholic, has a prison record, has a kid in jail, grandchildren out of wedlock, no car, no license, fines, debt, is abusive, is not intellectual, and has no education. All he has is a funny sense of humor, a great body, and some carpentry skills.
I don’t knowhowwith two master’s degrees, material success, and happy and successful children, I could have picked such a narcissistic jerk. What is wrong with me? I’m in therapy, andmy therapist says it’s because I had an abusive family of alcoholics and ragers, and have all the classic characteristics of adult children of alcoholics.
I’m afraid to kick him out because I never meet anyone. I’ve been alone most ofmy life.
— Helpless Smart Dummy
DearHelpless: As long as you consider being alone a worse fate than being in an abusive relationship with a lying, narcissistic jerk, then keep doing what you’re doing. But in the immortal words of “Dr. Phil”: “How’s thatworking for you?” It is obviously notworking for you at all.
I’m not a therapist, but, for what it’sworth, I agree with their assessment.
Peoplewho grewup in chaotic, neglectful, abusive and alcoholic households often internalize the idea that they are somehow “not enough.” I assume this is because, despite their heroic efforts as children, they cannot fix, heal or alter the dynamic of their family.
Intelligence, education and success in other realms will not offset this deep void, but you can change your current mindset and your behavior.
Ask your therapist to talk to you about codependency. And connect with anAdult Children of Alcoholics group (adultchildren.org).
DearAmy: I amalways struck when you and folks in your column talk about keeping a journal. I think that soundswonderful!
I never kept a journal for long growing up. This is in part because therewere times that a familymember readmy private writings, and I felt betrayed.
But nowI’m an adult with no excuses for failing to start something I’ve alwayswanted to do. I usually start, and then drift off after a few days.
Any advice for aspiring journal keepers?
I can’t help butwonder if part ofmy lack of motivation is the fear that someonewould read them and judge them to be what is perfectlyOKfor them to be: Nothing too exciting.
DearM: Ihave journals going back to when I receivedmy first one for Christmas, whenIwas 8 years old.
However, I amnot and have never been a daily writer. I only write when I feel compelled to. Weeks can go by! But I keep a blank book handy (no dates on the pages— too muchpressure!).
Ifyouwant tostarta newhabit, oneway isby habit stacking. Basically, you “stack” anewhabit on top of an old habit. For instance, after your morning coffee, you try to write a few sentences. Don’t pressure yourself to create beautiful sentences, just freestyle it.
Writing is basically a muscle— the more you use it, the stronger and more skilled you become.
Technology can be helpful here. You can set a prompt on your phone to remind you to sit down and write. The downside of setting an alarm is that writing for pleasure can start to seem like a chore, which is one reason you’ve abandoned your efforts in the past.
DearAmy: I knowyou are awealth of knowledge for resources.
Are there any good books on dealing with all of the pain, death and suffering in theworld? I amnot a spiritual person.
DearMark: What a thoughtful question. My answer is: All the books.
I turn to poetry during tough times: Walt Whitman, Mary Oliver, Elizabeth Bishop, Billy Collins, Jericho Brown and Emily Dickinson. Poets write the lyrics to the music of life.
Copyright 2020 by Amy Dickinson