My greatest fear is nothing that anyone who does not know me would guess and would never probably appear on the top twenty list of most people and yet for me, it’s almost crippling. “Only boring people get bored,” is often quoted, yet widely attributed with no one, it seems, certain of its origin. Being boring or bored is something which has driven me since my first cognitive thought. It’s such an ordinary trait or instinct; such a very average and plebian affliction from which to suffer. Not for me, thank you very much, no. I will always find curiosity in life and the world and books and cultures and languages; in all things intellectual, and even in physical challenges. I will never let anyone or anything render me boring and thus potentially bored. The only thing I could imagine to be worse than being rendered boring or bored would be to lose my sense of humor and my ability to see the absurd, even in situations that are otherwise unsettling.
And yet. Somehow I have become just that and perhaps more, the irony being that it has been imposed upon me by the collective, unrelenting narcissism of others. What? Let me attempt to explain.
I used to be – before I was harassed to within an inch of my sanity and forced out of my job by an over-sexed slob with extreme tendencies and the simplest of minds – an interesting person. My great and first love is geopolitics; not that crap Americans consume from Cliff’s Notes-like snippets in USA Today; no, the real deal. Jane’s Defence, Foreign Affairs, per Concordiam, three English language foreign newspapers every day plus Правда. The way the world is really connected and works versus how people perceive it fascinates me and always has. I would also spend at least an hour a day – usually in the evening – practicing Russian so as not to lose it, and brushing up on French because though it’s easier, it’s also less engrained in me due to the manner in which I learned it.
When I traveled, even for work, I sought out the interesting aspects of life and society, even in the most otherwise seemingly bland locales. Museums, monuments, restaurants, landscapes; anything unique I could photograph, describe, remember or just add to the catalog of information in my head upon which I call when I engage in conversation with interesting people.
I tweeted and wrote about politics and society and systems of government and their various and sundry flaws. And about my beloved Memphis Grizzlies. Want to talk about my one true obsession? My NBA team, even when they suck as much as they did this season. And sports of any stripe, really, when the NBA season ends. Tennis, football (European and American), Rugby (love), and even golf. If it has a ball and there’s competition involved, I’m in.
But not for the past few months. No, for the past few months I’ve had to take on something I would rather not. I’ve had to do the worst thing any of us can be forced to do: approach an emotional and personally damaging topic with the surgical detachment of an automaton. I’ve had to do the job for which I was once employed and paid, but I’ve had to do it for myself, for my own cause, and without pay. Who the hell would ever choose any one aspect of all of the above, let alone the entire combination thereof? No one. And doing so has rendered me both boring and bored, not to mention that I’ve lost almost 2,000 Twitter followers and as many followers of my blog. It isn’t smart or fun or entertaining or even remotely intellectual. It is a personal battle for what is rightly mine that hinges on a topic so polarizing that there literally is no middle ground. There is black and white and all shades of grey are quickly vaporized or claimed by one side or the other. Nothing about such divisive topics breeds intelligent debate. Who in their right mind would want to spend their time solely on such a topic, let alone when it pertains specifically to them and their situation as it does for me in this instance? Again, no one.
So daily, I implore, ‘Please God do not let me die a dull, soggy, dumpling of a being; do not let this detour into the depths of abject banality define my existence.’ No one wants to die a dumpling.
But, you see, I have no choice, and to me, it is now a job. My job. My only job. And because of this, I’m even boring myself. But here’s where the narcissism of others comes into the equation.
Almost two years ago during a business trip, the man who harassed me had what can only be described as an outward manifestation of his inner paranoia borne of his by then blue-flame-burning level guilt. To sum it up, he freaked out during a meeting in which I was presenting because, to quote him, “In my head you were only coming here to drop some big bomb. In my head, you were coming here to blow up my life.” Where to even begin. No, it had nothing to do with the six months of research and work I’d done about the topic on which this meeting was being held, nor how much the client was paying his organization for me to be there. No, you absolute batcrap-on-a-cracker-crazy nutjob from hell, you did a fine job of lighting the fuse on what was left of your life all by yourself. And just because you choose to burn to the ground everything good that’s ever come into your life doesn’t mean that we all have even a modicum of such self-destructive instincts. Stop projecting and check yourself into a clinic, won’t you? Spare us all the ever-cascading, emotional, off-its-rails rollercoaster that is your mental state and general disaster of a life. “In [your] head.” Please. Even Freud wouldn’t willingly wander into that clusterfuck of dysfunction. Is what I wanted to say, and guess I just did. Cathartic, too. But even if I had said it at the time, he wouldn’t have understood because to him, everything is about him. I couldn’t have possibly been there for any other reason. I must have only been working there because of him. I must have only schlepped thousands of miles for a meeting because of him. And now the people who employed him seem to think that I am only defending myself and my right to earn in an atmosphere free from harassment and targeting because of, what, them?
According to Kernberg, malignant narcissism is a psychological syndrome comprising an extreme mix of narcissism, antisocial behavior, aggression, and sadism.Often grandiose, and always ready to raise hostility levels, the malignant narcissist undermines families and organizations in which they are involved, and dehumanizes the people with whom they associate.
But in some small way, he has won, this malignant narcissist, and that kills me more than any other aspect of this. How, you ask? Because I have been dragged unwillingly into this fight. I have been lowered to his level. I was harassed (and far worse) and I did have to leave my job because of it. And I did have to disappoint my son as a result. You want to make a single mom determined? Do something which not only impacts her, but also her child. I’m not doing any of this because I enjoy even one iota of it; anyone who has ever spent even one second in my presence would tell you that my intellectual curiosity for the world and innate joy for life and all it has to offer defines me more than any other characteristics. I was accepted to study law at Cambridge in the Autumn, for God’s sake, so do you think I still want to be doing this? No, I don’t. But thanks to that man, I also cannot afford Cambridge. Nor could I afford my son’s tuition at John’s Hopkins for grad school, which is the reason he isn’t there. Talk about motivation.
Yet somehow, if I read the tea leaves correctly, it is my fault that we are where we are, which is exactly nowhere. Sure. Blaming me for this situation being where it is today is no different than Iran blaming the US for sanctions against it because the mullahs made the unilateral decision to contravene the nuclear accords. I’m sorry? You’re the one who decided to break the rules, but you want to assign blame to the one who decides to invoke and enforce the rules of the game? You’re the one who exercised bad judgment, but you now want to make demands? That’s just not how anything works. This is no more my fault than is Kim Jun Un’s bad haircut, lardlike body, and tiny feet, and I will not let anyone pretend or posture as though it is.
We are where we are because of narcissistic intransigence, both then and now. Despite the fact that I am admittedly amongst the most stubborn human beings who ever lived, even I heed my lawyer’s advice. I’ve derided the legal profession, and especially the other side’s team, but mine and theirs have been doing it for a very long time, so they can’t entirely suck at it, I suppose. And I’m going to need mine, because this is only going to end one of two ways: we will file suit, issue a press release and I will spend what I have left on online media. Or we will settle, I will erase everything I’ve ever said or done, and I will get to continue my intellectual pursuits. I will get to go back to being an interesting person.
Failing to do anything at all, though, is precarious brinksmanship egoism at its worst. Yet they’ve done nothing. So I did. Because to quote my beloved Texan mother-in-law, “The only thing you get from sitting on the fence is splinters in your ass.” And how very uncomfortable that must be. But again, not my fault. How nice would it be if this were the last thing I ever had to say on this matter? How wonderful it would be to wake up one day and not have this hanging over my head. To not have a single thought of it pervade my concentration as I try to do positive and productive things with my life. And how entirely narcissistic for anyone to think that I would choose to spend one second of one minute of one hour of one day of one week of one month of one year of my precious life on this. On them. On him.