The perks of being true to yourself

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I was recently rummaging through my writing desk when I came across a letter I had long since forgotten.  It is not the typical style of prose I would choose to hang on to but it is a glaring reminder of how therapeutic it can be to exorcise a toxic friend from your life.

Toxic friendships start so innocently.  The relationship begins to build on a foundation of trust and common interests, a bond is evident and the rules of the alliance seem to be clearly outlined and understood by both parties.  Each participant silently vows to put the other’s well-being ahead of the general population and to always have the other friend’s back.

But, somewhere during one particular friendship of mine, the rules changed.  My toxic friend began to show the obvious characteristics of being narcissistic and she no longer had a genuine investment in my feelings.  She began to pollute my reality with her selfishness and her uncanny ability to focus solely on herself.  Although the previous vows of our friendship still may have percolated in the back of her mind, she forged ahead only looking out for herself, completely negating any regard for my feelings.

Unfortunately, I have fallen victim to more than my fair share of toxic friends.  I have created excuses for their behavior, forgiven them on many occasions for the negative effect they have had on my life, and the lives of others, and defended their antics ad nauseam.  For the duration of those relationships my toxic friends broke all the fundamental and universal laws of friendship and yet I found it difficult to break the bond of our kinship.

I keep this letter, still, as a reminder of the journey I took to find my worth.  This one solid shred of evidence is proof of the strength I possessed to finally walk away from a toxic friendship and put myself first.  It is a letter, penned by a third-party, written to attack my character and accuse me of misrepresenting myself as a friend.  Although this letter initially angered me because the author was completely ignorant regarding my history with this certain friend, I now look at the words and smile.

I was accused of being a bad friend, and I was a bad friend – to myself.   I was accused of changing, and I did change – for the better.   I was told I would regret ending this one-sided friendship and, yes, I did indeed have regret about ending this particular friendship – but only because I didn’t have the balls to do it sooner.

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I made a monumental decision that day and one I will never regret making.  I finally gave myself permission to define how I let people treat me.  My friendships now are nurturing and reciprocal and the friends I have in my life treat me with the same respect I show them.  It was a bumpy road for a while but knowing when to let go was a lesson I learned the hard way.  I may have a few cuts and bruises from having walked into a new freedom but I shall wear those scars with pride.

Good things come to those who wait

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mouse

The snap of the spring echoed throughout the house.  Nervous whiskers twitched as big eyes peered from the hole in the floorboard.  A lone piece of cheddar sat untouched on the trap.  The second mouse pilfered the cheese without the slightest hesitation.

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I cry a thousand tears

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cry

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A thousand tears have fallen

and saturated my face.

Keeping alive the memories

that time will never erase.

Salient thoughts burden my brain,

each with a life of their own,

keeping me close to my ardent emotion,

my sadness never far from home.

A rushing wave of sorrow,

an eclipse of what was good,

 trying to find the buoy of happiness,

in the sea of misunderstood.

Embracing loss, moving on,

clinging to what I hold dear.

Knowing that the emotion I feel,

others keep just as near.

I cry a thousand tears,

knowing I am not alone,

 and I hold tight to those who cry with me,

 feeling that they are my home.

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A womb with a view

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For those about to panic and skip by this blog, this is not a collection of words about childbirth.  This musing is about Magnetic Resonance Imaging or, on an alphabetical scale, an MRI.

I had reason to have an MRI on my knee two years ago after it had swelled to the size of a slightly deflated football.  In hindsight I should have contacted Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, but instead I opted for the less challenging task of calling my doctor.  After  her skillful medical prodding determined I was not a hypochondriac, I was placed on a waiting list for an experience I am hoping to forget but probably never will.

I am not new to hospital procedures.  I have had my fair share of expensive medical equipment scan parts of my body that only a skilled technician should see.  I just regaled a few friends with this tale about how a mammogram and an ultrasound have been the cause of many laughs.  (If you need a good laugh, click on the link.  It’s a really good story).  But having an MRI is an experience like no other when you are prone to enjoy open spaces and breathing normally.

I had done my best to mentally prepare for what I assumed was similar to a Sensory Deprivation Chamber.  I arrived early to undertake the task of filling out reams of paperwork which only made my pulse race faster than it already had been.  I dressed myself in the latest hospital fashion and was led to the room where I would spend the next 45 minutes trapped in a small vessel that made up for its size with its sound.

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I can only be grateful that I was not fully immersed in the tube-shaped magnet that would send pulses through the layers of my being.  My head was allowed to be free of the cage in which my body was being held hostage.  With headphones blasting horrific music and the thrum of the machine making me wish that I had chosen to be thrown from an airplane, the scan ensued.

I tried my best to close my eyes and concentrate on the disconnected notes playing on the music channel they had chosen for me.  But I am a curious sort of person and that doesn’t always bode well.  After mistakenly hallucinating for the duration of the scan,  I realized, after the torture was over, that the wall to my left was a live-action wall and that birds had been flying across the screen while I lay, coma-like, on the bed of the scanner.  I was relieved to know it was the hospital’s sick sense of humour and I was not having an aneurysm.  At the end of the process, I was birthed from the giant womb that is the MRI machine and sent, in my swaddling clothes, to the change room to retrieve the belongings that represented freedom – my clothes and my car keys.

I have a dear friend who, as of this morning, will have undergone his first of two MRI’s last night and I can only hope he weathered the first of his two storms with as much of a consequent sense of humour as I now have about my encounter.

And although it is an unpleasant experience, I do hope his womb with a view can provide answers that will help him move forward and begin to feel like himself again.

 

 

 

Get lost….get really, really lost

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“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”  ~ Mahatma Gandhi

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There have been many quotes I have used to begin posts on this blog, but none have had as much of an impact on me as this very powerful string of words.

I lead a very fortunate life.  I may not be rich in terms of dollars and cents but I am wealthy.  I have roof over my head, a job that I love and I am surrounded by a wonderful network of friends and family who are nurturing, loving and supportive.  Perhaps that energy is the fuel that brought me to this moment in my life, the moment when I realized I wanted to give more of my time to people who could use a hand, in whatever way I was able to help.

There is no set of standards for helping others.  There is no rule book, no guidelines and no complex set of algorithms.  It is a simple equation.  Time + Effort = Results.   And for some, the results of our time and effort can make more of a difference than we will ever potentially realize.

A group of people spent a little over two hours of our time yesterday and the outcome of our concerted efforts will provide dinners for a deserving family for almost two weeks.  It was two hours out of our Sunday.  We chatted, we had wine and we laughed.  And in that small window of time, we made a huge difference.

Next Sunday, and maybe the Sunday after, we will do the same thing again with some familiar and some new faces and, hopefully, take another small amount of weight from the shoulders of the family we are trying to help.

If I can find myself while losing myself in the service of others, point my compass in that direction any time.  I went to bed last night with a tired body, but with a full heart.   Life is not about what we can do for other people.  Life is about how other people can benefit from the time and energy we are willing to give.

Making the right things different

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“We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love.  It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love the changed person.” ~ W. Somerset Maugham


I love stories of couples who have been together for decades, who celebrate year after year together and still maintain that bond of love and friendship.  My grandparents had it, my parents had it and my brother has it.  I have not been able to weather that change with as much success as they have but that truth does not make me sad.

The most basic definition of change is to make something different.  That is how the dictionary categorizes change and I have been through many circumstances in my life that have caused me to become different.  Sadly, or perhaps not, I was unable to continue relationships with certain loves because I became a changed person.  I had grown from experience, I had aged from knowledge and I had matured from the lessons of my reality.

I am, decidedly, not the same person this year as last.  There is an underlying intensity to me that I had never previously possessed.  There is a confidence, a slow-burning belief in myself, that is gradually being fueled by the understanding of my recently discovered strengths.  And that person did not exist while I was in those past relationships.  That person slowly transformed from chrysalis to butterfly, evolved from the person I used to be, and changed into the person I am now.

Butterfly Emerging

Certainly it would be a happy coincidence if we are fortunate enough to mature together and to be able to love that changed person in our lives and grow in the same direction.  But it would no fault of either person if that change took different trajectories.

People change.  Ideals change.  Love changes.  Our job is to decide whether we, being the person we are now, are still able to love that changed person or whether we need to make a change for ourselves.

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