Moving On from Toxic Relationships

There comes a day when you realize turning the page is the best feeling in the world, because you realize there is so much more to the book than the page you were stuck on.  ~Zahn Malik

Over the years, people come and go throughout our lives. Friendships that once were close drift apart. We move jobs or locations. We move on.

Some of these friendships continue to be important to us. Though we may not be in contact for awhile, the connections never really cease to exist. When we make the occasional call or see one another decades later, it continues as if time never passed. Then we go back to our lives until our paths cross again, often years later, and for awhile…we move on.

We also have people in our lives from which we grow apart. We each change so much that we can no longer remain friends. What we had in common at one stage of life is no longer important, nor does it continue to bind us together. We wish them well, but then…we all decide to move on.

As we mature, we realize there are many friendships, which we can no longer try to maintain…that we SHOULD not maintain, if only to protect our own sanity. We know we must move on.

These may be with people who are extremely negative and try to drag you into their drama. Or they make you their scapegoat for everything that has gone wrong. Perhaps, they are unable to take ownership for their lives. Even when they reach out to you, there is a sense of blaming, control, or “woe-is-me,” and it has not changed in all the years you have known them. The handwriting on the wall. Yet, we struggle with knowing how to move on.

Because we care about these people, and once were close in our friendships, we give them chance-after-chance, time-after-time.  At some point, you are slapped upside the head and see that they are stuck in the loop of “same-old-shit-different-day/circumstance.”  You know instinctively that you cannot help them. They need the kind of help that you are not equipped to give them. You are not a trained psychotherapist.

When you try to set boundaries, they push back hard and become abusive in their language, blaming you for not understanding. They accuse you of turning your  back on a friend in need. Now you know that you must run as fast as you can to move on.

The only way out of this type of unhealthy relationship is to let them know that you no longer wish to be in relationship to them. They are toxic to you, and you realize that it is time for you to take care of yourself. You do it kindly, but directly. And then you block them from email, social media, and do not answer the phone calls.  You finally move on.

For a time, you may not hear anything anymore.  Life is peaceful. You recognize that your stress level is greatly reduced. You no longer take on their drama. You think they have moved on.

You develop healthy relationships with people who give you life, and affirm the value you hold in relationship to them. Being around these friends energizes you. There is reciprocity in the relational dynamic. You begin to grow and develop well-rounded friendships/relationships with people who who breathe life into you, and do not suck the very breath from you. You are able to move in similar directions, and celebrate life with one another, even through the difficult tests of time.

Then one day, you hear from someone you told years ago to not contact you. He/she reaches out in order to “move on” past what was. The boundaries you set forth a few years earlier are held in complete disregard.

The language becomes confusing, guilt-inducing, and the methods  feel creepy:

  • “I don’t know why you won’t call me me back.” 
  • “You misunderstood what I meant.”  
  • “I don’t think you understand what I was going through.”
  • Sometimes, there will be a suggestion that this is a return call, when (in fact) you have chosen not to call, but to ignore the attempted contacts.
  • Calls will come several times throughout the week,  late at night when you are sleeping, sometimes to your work numbers. The messages are nearly always the same.

All of these seem to be attempts to manipulate the situation in order to get you to respond to  with a return phone conversation or email exchange. You have seen this before, and you know what the end result will be. Nothing good will come of this, because their behavior has not changed over the years. You recognize the patterns.

It is not always easy to know how to deal with situations, such as this.  Each situation is unique. At some point, you need to be direct and say, “This is enough.”  

But when these toxic people start to resurface, what do you do? Do you entertain them? Do you call them back?  Do you email them? I think not. But there might come a time when you must discern what to do, dependent on the gravity of the situation.

It may require you to give one last message:

 “I HAVE moved on. Do NOT contact me again. Any further contact in any format will be considered harassment/stalking.”

You moved on. They need to move on, too. 

Until you let go of ALL the toxic people in your life, you will NEVER be able to grow into your fullest potential. Let them go so you can grow.  (LIVELIFEHAPPY.com)

Christmas Memories

This week, it will be my 61st Christmas Eve and Day on this earth. Certainly some holidays have stood out more than the others. Not all were filled with tidings of comfort and joy. But there have been several that hold some of my fondest memories.

I went to Redeemer Lutheran School and church in my first and second grade years. I was five when I started first grade, never going to Kindergarten.

We put on a Nativity pageant, and that first year in 1960, four months after turning five, I was the angel. With my celestial attire of a white cotton sheet, and wire hanger wings and halo wrapped in tinsel garland, I delivered my first lines on stage: “Unto you a child is born.”

There were a couple of childhood years that were magical, and were my favorites–Childhood Christmas Memories from the Early 1960s. Being a “big sister,” to my first sister, Sonja, was part of the magic for me. She arrived in 1962.

Christmas 1965 was one of the years that I was on the Lawrence Welk Christmas show. Thanks to YouTube, I can watch this clip and see my father, brother, sister and I. There are glimpses of a family still intact. Even though I knew the “truth” about Santa, I still see wonder and joy in my 10-year-old face.

My daughter was born in September 1975. I had very little money. I bought her these two little cloth dolls–boy and girl–that were the closest thing I could afford to a Raggedy Ann and Andy. By 1978 they were so raggedy, and had been washed so many times, they were lifeless. But oh, how she loved them, nearly as much as I loved her.

Sometime in the 1980s, I went back to California to visit around the holidays. Ours had been a tense relationship over the years.  That one year, she asked me if I had been to “Candy Cane Lane.”  I was not quite sure what she meant, but we got into the car–just the two of us–and she drove around for us to look at the Christmas light displays in and around our area. It was one of the most magical moments I remember having with my mother in our adult years.

Christmas 1999/New Years 2000 was the season I went to England and Scotland with a backpack and stayed in youth hostels. It was probably one of my favorite Christmases ever! I was in Glasgow for Christmas Eve, and Perth, for New Years Eve. I spent nearly three weeks with strangers, and it was the most fun I think I ever had during the holidays.

Christmas 2001 was special because of a reconciliation. It was the first Christmas spent with my grandchildren, who were nearly five and two years of age at that time. I will never forget the feeling of my grandson crawling up on my lap that first Christmas. We have all missed out on so much, and I pray that more reconciliation will allow the special bonds of family to be renewed one day. But I will never forget having that magical moment

Christmas and New Years 2006/7 was the holiday I spent with my friend, Julitta, and her husband, Per-Erik, visiting them in Sweden. I arrived early in the month so I could be there to celebrate Julitta’s fiftieth birthday. I lived in Sweden with them for about five weeks, and we made so many memories. It was probably one of the best five weeks of my life. They truly are my Swedish “family.” (Julitta is from Poland; Per-Erik is a Swede.)

This year, amidst life’s challenges that seem to face so many of us, let us all find some joy and memory-making moments in this season.

I look forward to telling you of those special moments soon!!

 

 

 

 

When Thanksgiving Day Changes

thanksgiving-1058682_1280

We all have expectations of what the Thanksgiving holidays are meant to be.

Media has certainly played a big part in creating what the “perfect ” day is supposed to be.  So, when the situations in life are less than Hallmark-perfect, the feelings of loss or being “less than” can eat away at the very core of what we have come to believe is normal.

I have had many share with me over the years that they feel that “the joy of holidays has disappeared.” I am convinced that this is not uncommon. There are simply those who retreat for a few days, allowing others to believe that they are busy and happy.

Things change. Family dynamics change. People struggle to change with them, not knowing how to do things differently. They are thrown into a tailspin and nothing resembles what was or what is “supposed” to be.

I have had many years of Thanksgivings to learn to do things differently. Many of them have been fun, and filled with much love and peace. Yet, I still have not learned how to manage them well.

Life has changed drastically for family members and friends that they are learning to deal with their own expectations of what holidays and life truly mean. I suppose that I had talked myself into believing that some situations would go back to what they once were long ago. But that is my own version of what I was taught to believe today should bring.

Today, I will not host a Thanksgiving dinner. There are no definitive holiday plans or invitations to join any one else in a celebration of the holiday, or to help them in hosting such an event. Today will be like any other day.

There is not a moment where we are not surrounded with the commercial visions of sugarplums and Santa and Norman Rockwell-inspired visions of family gatherings.

Wait!  Sugarplums and Santa?  Aren’t we still talking about Thanksgiving? I am confused. Halloween to New Years becomes such a blur when Christmas decorations are being sold in October.

Anyone of us can fall into a pit melancholy, hurt and pain. We can feel slighted for not getting invitations. We may feel discarded by those who “should” (fill-in-the-blank).

I admit that I have fallen into that pit a time or two over the years.

Yet, I have learned that every day can be a day of thanksgiving, whether or not it is filled with turkey and stuffing, and pumpkin pie while watching football games with people you may see once a year.

But who is to say that you cannot stuff a turkey with bread, or bake a pumpkin pie in July, if you wanted?

Has Thanksgiving been reduced to simply a turkey, cranberries, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows?  Is this what it has become because we have all bought into unrealistic expectations that have been shoved down our throats by society, media, and (dare I say) dysfunctional family?

Each day we wake up, there is an opportunity to give thanks for whatever we have. Is that not what the words represent?  Thanks giving?

I do not know if I will eat turkey or pumpkin pie today. I might just have pancakes and eggs at my local Denny’s.

On Saturday I am meeting a group of people for a traditional dinner and game night, if I need my tryptophan-fix.

Yet, today I will reflect on many things for which I am thankful:

  • LIFE itself
  • People who have remained by my side to care for me since my 2012 diagnosis
  • Living in a place where I am safe
  • The few dear friends and family members who continue to make it a point to let me know they love me by picking up a telephone or sending me something in the mail to surprise me
  • Having enough
  • Opportunities presented to me when I trust in the process, others and myself
  • A new life born on Tuesday–my grand niece, Rosie, at 9 lbs. 6 oz.
  • Being enough

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

For those of you who celebrate today, have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with much joy and love and peace that you so deserve on this day and always.

And for those of you who are sitting at home alone, maybe you will join me for those pancakes at Denny’s.

 

For what things are you thankful for today?

Sixty years and a Day into my 61st

00BohemianMy 60th birthday was very low-key yesterday. I had not slept the night before, so I took a rain check on a lunch date with my youngest sister, and dinner with a friend of mine. I did not even get to the nail salon for a manicure and pedicure.

I just wanted to relax without feeling I had to do anything or be anywhere. Is that a sign of “getting old”? Or, perhaps, it is a sign of freedom!

I received several phone calls and messages from friends and family. I opened my mailbox to receive a card from my sister in Tulsa, and no bills or advertisements.  This morning, I read messages and articles written in honor of me by several of my online friends from a writers’ group to which I belong.

I did receive “gifts” from some local establishments, so I redeemed these:

  • Birthday drink from Starbucks–Not only a drink, I had a free item coming for the purchases I make.  I chose a grilled cheese sandwich and a trenta-sized (31 oz.) Mango Black Tea Lemonade.
  • $10 Birthday Money from CostPlus World Market–I also had another coupon for $10 off when you spend $30. I purchased $40 of merchandise, mostly on sale. The total value (not on sale) retail was close to $100. I paid less than $23.
  • $10 Rewards Certificate from Eddie Bauer–I found a coral-colored tank top at the Eddie Bauer retail outlet store on the discount rack for $9.50.

I also went to Trader Joe’s to visit my favorite employee, Sally, and chat with her for a few minutes. She was setting out samples of their New York-style cheesecake with a berry sauce made from an organic berry blend.  I had two small samples. It could not have been a better two bites if I had ordered a slice of cheesecake (my favorite) from The Cheesecake Factory.

I bought myself some bright, beautiful sunflowers (5/$3.99), and a half-gallon (not really that size any more, but the big round tub) of rocky road ice cream from another store, and came home.  I watched some television, heated up some leftovers, ate ice cream and took a couple more phone calls before heading to bed about midnight.

I am the type of person that I would have liked to have had a big, milestone surprise birthday party with a lot of people, laughter, food and drink, and presents. Though I have never been surprised by that kind of party, I have enjoyed those celebrations, where I bring my eclectic group of family and friends together, for those who can attend.

But I am the kind of person who can find the joy in other ways to celebrate life. The phone calls I had with the friends and family, the messages received, the interactions with the people I met along the way at the stores, the conversations with customer service people in doing business–all of them–were all instrumental in making my 60th birthday a celebration. I even received a hug or two yesterday from total strangers.

I am grateful for this life, and for the people I meet along the way. It is for this reason that I get up in the morning and look forward to a brand new day.

Thanks to all, who made my 60th a special day.  Here is upward and onward to the 61st!

 

 

When Feeling Unappreciated, What Do You Do?

hands-658065_640Between my work over the years, and being uber-extroverted, I meet and talk with a lot of people. Although I am certainly “quite the talker,” I also listen and observe more than people often think I do.

I have been told that I have a knack of “drawing people out of themselves,” though I think that is what happens when we learn to be more effective communicators. Of course, there are many times that I have just as many communication issues in those relationships closest to me, as others do.  After all, each of us has our history with which to deal.

I often hear in my interactions with students, clients, and others I meet who share along the way, that they feel under- or unappreciated.  I have felt that way myself. It seems to run the gamut of personal and work relationships.  Family, coworkers, friendships…the lament seems to be the same. It seems to be universal.

“I am tired of being taken for granted!”

It is easy to pull away when feeling the most vulnerable. It is one way that feels like protection from feeling more hurt.  The results can lead to lashing out in anger and words being thrown like daggers. It takes awhile to recover from those wounds, especially when weeks, months, or years pass without resolve.

Every once in awhile, when least expected, someone will have an impact in a way that seems unimaginable. An acquaintance will share genuine words of encouragement, love, and support, singing praises of appreciation or adoration.

These are the times that I am left (nearly) speechless. I find it difficult to process in those moments that I may be anything other than the (fill-in-the-blank) that others have declared I am. It challenges, not only the view I think others have of me but, the view I have of myself.

I wonder what might happen if, in our dealings with all people, we were to look at others through new lenses and see what we liked about them.

If we were to appreciate others, would we be more appreciated? What if we were all to share more often what we appreciated about others?

Not obligatory words in order to assuage a sense of guilt or feeling “beholden to.” Not to manipulate or pander to others, looking for acknowledgement of the gift of kind words finally bestowed upon them.  Not just once. But often simply letting others know what they mean to us and why?

Would this make a difference in the relationships we already have?  Would it make a difference in someone’s life? Would we bridge gaps? Would we build new friendships?

Today, I consciously make the decision to make a difference by letting someone know what I appreciate about them.

hands-718562_640

Koningsdag 2015

koningsdag

Today is a national holiday for my Dutch friends.  It marks the birthday of the reigning King Willem-Alexander.

From everything that I have heard from my my Dutch friends over the years, it is a big national festival with many celebrations–concerts, parties, parades, and more. For some, it is a show of patriotism. For others, support of the Royal Family. But for most others, it marks where people get together.

It seems to me that Koningsdag (King’s Day) in the Netherlands may be very similar to our Independence Day on the 4th of July each year. It is a day when we make new friends and celebrate long-time friendships and make new friends.

Most of all, it is one day each year when there there is a strong sense of belonging, evidenced by the wearing of orange, the national color, and the waving of their own red, white, and blue flags.

So, to my Dutch friends…

Een Fijne Koningsdag Allemaal!!

koningsdag02-t

Taking a Break from Facebook

There are times when we all need to take a break from some things that seem to bog us down in life.

I am at one of those moments in time.

I have decided to temporarily deactivate my Facebook page.  The reasons behind the decision are several, but it’s not necessary to list them.

I simply need a break.

The hardest thing is going to be not feeling connected to many people.  However, connection has changed now that Facebook seems to be the only contact nowadays with many who used to call or visit face-to-face.

I wonder if there are others who have also left some of the social media sites, and for what reasons?  Have you gone back? If not, do you miss it?

It is my hope is that some of the friends I have will be available for that phone call or mealtime that we used to share.

Face-to-face conversation over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine  cannot be replaced.

Tulsa Time with My Sister

In fewer than 24 hours, I will be in Tulsa, Oklahoma, spending the following 11 days visiting my sister, Sonja.

We are seven years apart. We have a brother between us, and two other sisters younger.  Because I was the first-born, I left home first.  Sonja was only 11 years when I joined the Air Force. The other two girls were 7 and 4.

Sonja and I were raised similarly in those days before I left home.  The family dynamics changed drastically due to a divorce a couple of years before I joined the military.  I don’t think it was easier before or after the dissolution.  It was simply “different.”  My leaving changed the dynamics, yet again, as does any family when children leave the nest.

One thing that I have realized is that the two of us have never spent time together without someone else around.  Now that we are both in our 50s, I wanted to make sure that it happened. It has been a long time coming.

So, I’m on my way to Tulsa and will be there through her birthday, leaving the following day.  I am so looking forward to having fun with her and making the memories that only sisters can make.

Two women. Two girls. Two people whose lives have paralleled in many ways with shared experiences, but lacking in the experiences together that were not painful from what life dished out.

These next 11 days are a time to share joy and laughter, and go back to recreate the childhood sisterhood with new memories.  And we will enjoy one another five decades later in ways that only we sisters can share.

 

 

One of Life’s Teaching Moments

There are times in life that can seem overwhelming.

It may be a situation or a person that is at the crux of the experience; something or someone over which we clearly have no influence. We can certainly allow ourselves to become overwhelmed, ruled by the feelings that the words we hear from others conjure up in our minds.

This is when life’s teaching moments seem to become most difficult to maneuver, as we try to make sense of the moments that we never saw coming and emotionally blindside us.

Indeed, it is important to be open to see where we might grow and improve as individuals, and in relationship to those people we love. We need to take personal inventory from time-to-time, not to force change but to understand how change may be a force for good.

How wonderful it is when opportunities for open, direct, honest communication can be created, where each party is afforded an equal chance to speak from a position of love and honor of oneself, as well as of the other.  Each person willing to hear the other to learn and understand.

There are times, however, when one will not be willing. One will speak their truth, but reciprocity denied. There will be no allowance to understand or be understood.

There will be nothing that the other can do.

And for whatever reason, when we allow others, their words and imposed situations, over which we are allowed no influence, to create chaos in our hearts, then we become no better than the confusion and craziness that is the source of the attack on our well-being.

“People can come into our lives, then leave without a moment’s notice. Each time someone new enters my life, I open a room for them in my heart. When they leave, the room remains. My heart is full of mostly empty rooms.” ― José N. Harris

What If Today Were Your Last Day

I never seem to have enough time to catch up reading all of the blogs and books and articles I want to read.

Honestly, I have never figured out how some people can juggle all of life’s expectations and keep their worlds running in smooth synchronicity. I might be able to get all the balls in the air at once, but they would come crashing down around me.

I suppose I am a bit “all-or-nothing” in my approach to life, not that this has particularly served me well. Yet, I have certainly lived a full life, even though many of my well-intended projects, dreams and relationships seem to have been long-forgotten.

I never forget the people in my life, although some may feel I have. I simply am a collector or gatherer of people. I bring them together. Make introductions. I am the consummate “networker.”

I love the company of people.

Different people. Unique stories. I prefer face-to-face. And I see most of them as “friends.”

So many others see friendship from a perspective of having a much more intimate relationship and call mine “acquaintances.” But I see the whole world of people as “friends I haven’t met yet.”

Technology and the Internet opened the world up to reaching others that one would never otherwise have the opportunity to meet. Blogging has allowed us a peek into how others think and feel, as if we were handed a penned diary into the secrets that were formerly kept hidden away between the mattress and box springs in the bedroom.

The past two days have been “all” days, when it comes time to trying to catch up on reading and I happened on to an online friend’s blog, Raindrops on Roses, only to find that she had nominated me for a “Liebster Award” and I was to answer a series of questions and repost. I’m unsure of whether these awards are real or not, as they are a reminiscent variation of the old chain letters I remember from the 1960s and 70s. But I found the questions to be interesting prompts and answered them in the comment section of her blog.

Then she asked for me to “Complete the sentence, ‘If today were my last day I would…’”

If today were my last day…

I would gather up all my family and friends (from all around the world, including my online pals), rent a huge room somewhere and I would have the greatest chefs prepare the best dinner anyone has ever eaten. I would hire the most fabulous band. And I would make sure that everyone had the most incredible day and evening of their lives.

We would laugh, sing, dance, tell stories, dine and drink together, reminisce, hug, and simply…

have fun!!

I would bring mementos of who I am and carefully select the “gift” that I would give to each of my guests, so that each would have something of me, explaining to each person why I chose them to receive the particular gift.

It would be the biggest celebration party that anyone has ever attended, celebrating the love and friendship we share in life, even on what would be my last day of life. There would be a distinct “rule” that the following day they could NOT have a memorial celebration because I would not be there to enjoy it with them.

It would be my hope that I would inspire others to live each day as if it were their last, and to make sure that they do whatever makes them the happiest in life.

So, tell me….

What would YOU do if today were your last day?

(Original post by author submitted 5/29/13)