(Toxic series, part 3)
There was a situation once, where A was unhappy with me, again. I remember exactly where she and I each stood, and I remember inwardly bracing myself, feeling frustrated. I remember asking her plainly, “What are your expectations?” There was a moment of silence, and I have not forgotten that defining moment for me. While at the time, it was me asking for “rules” basically, I needed a how-to manual, a way to stop feeling like everything I did was wrong. Later in counseling, my counselor would encourage me to think more like this, asking for others expectations and even evaluating my own in relationships.
Another situation entirely.. I have a neighbor who is unkind and very vocal about their unhappiness. After having the police called on us, I attempted to make amends. After listening to a long, angry tirade about how awful we and our friends were and being thoroughly insulted I asked kindly, “How about you let us know when it suits you for our friends to come and go?” My intent was not to be rude, but it may have interpreted that way. I wish that was a defining moment and we all lived happily ever after, but we are learning the art of long suffering in the meantime.
So you feel you are in a toxic situation and are wondering “Now what do I do?”
Every situation is different. In some cases the toxicity is caused by both people, in some cases it’s not. A dear friend and I sat and discussed this last week, and we were trying to come up with a clever title. And she shared pieces of her personal story. I planned to take my laptop away this past weekend to our family cabin trip and write, but instead I reflected, and thought.
It was a beautiful weekend, and in the end I was glad to be wholly unplugged and allow my mind to just think.
I thought while I ate, so much food. I thought while I watched the fish in this beautiful pond completely ignore my bait. I thought while I walked and biked with family members.
(These last two photos were taken by Lamar) This has always been one of my favorite scenes. A waterfall spilling down over the mountain. And it’s beautiful. But now there are those black pipes and stuff, and it sort of ruins the view.
And as I walked and biked past it numerous times this weekend, this scene stuck in my head.
I think, as I said before, we are all a little toxic sometimes. And it’s easy to point out the ugly that someone else displays, right? I mean, I have excuses for my “ugliness”.
But so does someone else.
We all have bad days, bad moments. We all have times we have taken our bad stuff out on someone who doesn’t deserve it. I judged everyone harshly and had unrealistic expectations after I lost the baby this summer. And deep down, I knew I was wrong so I retreated. I snapped off and “set people straight” during that period too. I was miserable and unhappy and there was no magic cure. I simply needed to take time an work through all the junk that was in my life. Which basically sums up my life, forever working through “junk”.
We need to take another moment again, to pause and maybe even have honest conversations about what is troubling you in the relationship. So many are quick to scream “TOXIC!” and run away, but maybe the person genuinely needs support and help.
Here are my tips:
A) Talk directly to the person. Bring up a situation (recent) and explain what bothered you. Ask questions, and really hear them.
B) Consult a friend, IF the behavior continues. Ask someone else who maybe likes you both to weigh in. Be prepared to show grace and recognize you are not perfect either.
C) If there is indeed proof that it is toxic, then it’s your call and how to proceed. My friend, V, said when we talked about this “WALK AWAY!” and she isn’t wrong.
We all have toxic traits, we all react differently to life and it’s curveballs. I recognize fully that I was not an emotionally healthy person, and I also contributed to the pain in the friendship with A. And I am sorry to others I have hurt. As I have thought and prayed over these posts, I have thought of all the seasonal friends I have had over the years, and I wonder if I was toxic to them. I have definitely gone into some dark places, places of pain and blame over these posts. These posts were not at all easy to write, a lot of emotions and painful stuff needed to dredged through.
But these posts were necessary to write. There are many people who feel stuck and lost. To each of the people who messaged me, entrusted me with their story and their pain.. I am sorry. To the children who feel like a parent doesn’t really care, like they can never, quite attain the approval and measure up for the love other siblings get, I am sorry. To the ones who suffer, because it’s their husband or wife, I am sorry. A sister, a brother, a best friend, someone you are sure can’t NOT be a part of your life.
There are no easy answers, there is no go-to response. And every situation is so different. Whatever decision you come to, it will be hard and awful. It will not be a quick 5 minute decision.
There are no rules or how-to’s that fit every scenario. But here’s what I wish for everyone to know:
You cannot control them. BUT you control you. And being respectful and kind is never the wrong decision.
I do not have permission to share specifically, and I won’t. But I have seen friends who still go above and beyond to be respectful and kind, for the sake of the children they love. And that is so hard for them, I hear their pain in doing it. But I see the point, I see their reality if they don’t.
A wise person once told me that to hold a grudge, withhold forgiveness is me keeping someone prisoner. Someone I may have stated I never wanted to see them again, and needing to visit them daily to feed and water them. Of course, I had a smart retort for that, but she wasn’t wrong. When you withhold forgiveness, you need to feed that grudge, live in the pain, and stay angry.
Life goes but one way.
Forgive. Be kind. Maybe you move forward and part ways. Maybe you keep them in you life, minimally. Maybe you take steps slowly. Maybe you jump ship immediately. Whatever you choose, choose also to be healthy in the meantime. Forgive. Get therapy. Be kind.
“When someone can make you see this broken world as beautiful, they’re worth keeping around.”
And to close…
See your value, add to it, and then go add some value to someone else. ~ Sonya Dudley
May we be the ones who add value, and help others see beauty in the broken. Because that’s my heart’s desire.