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.

into a new freedome

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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.

A new way to hitch a ride

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For those unfamiliar with the bird in the above picture, this seemingly benign creature is a Black-Capped Chickadee.  They are tiny in stature and extremely friendly once a level of trust has been developed.  I would spend countless hours as a child sitting outside on our deck with a handful of sunflowers seeds charming these little creatures to land on my hand.  I would marvel at the heat produced by their tiny claws as they gripped my fingers and admire their courage to trust a human feeder.

I became much smarter as time went on and removed the actual bird feeder altogether.  I was the only source of food for these feathered friends and slowly became the Chickadee Whisperer.  These beautiful little birds would jockey for positions on my outstretched hands and graze on the seeds that I willingly provided.  More often than not, I would have to leave my perch to fill the supply of food but they were anxiously fluttering around the deck awaiting my return.

On one particular occasion, I had gone inside to replenish the supply of seeds and had unwittingly left the screen door wide open.  One lone Chickadee flew into the house through the open door and, like a Kamikaze pilot on a suicide mission, thrust itself straight into our living room and landed squarely between the shoulder blades of our long-haired Lhasa Apso, Misty.  She had been sound asleep on the couch but the shock of having a foreign object entangled in her fur was immediate and Misty leapt off the couch to shake the intruder loose.  The more she shook, the stronger the bird held to her hair.

Not knowing which creature was more terrified, I watched Misty go from disbelief to panic in milliseconds.  As Misty began  thrashing like a bull being ridden in a rodeo, the bird held fast.  The movie 8-Seconds had nothing on this bird.  It was going for the World Record and the seconds began to tick on the clock.  Misty, realizing that a mere shaking of her shoulders was unsuccessful, jumped off the couch, taking off like a shot into a full run.  She lapped around the circuit from living room to kitchen to dining room and the chickadee hung on for dear life, riding that poor Lhasa Apso like it was going for Gold in the Olympics.  (I had to stop writing for a moment because I’m laughing too hard to type)

If you’ve ever watched a horse race and really concentrated on the jockey’s hands on the reins and position on the horse – this is what the poor Chickadee looked like riding my dog through the house.  I made vain attempts to catch the dog so we could rectify this unsettling but extremely hilarious chain of events but I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to focus on the task at hand.

After I finally caught up with the dog there was a great deal of panting.  I was panting trying to catch my breath after laughing so hard.  The dog was panting because she was probably moments away from having a stroke, and the bird was even panting – perhaps thinking a few more seconds would have garnered that coveted position in the Guinness Book of World Records.

With a great deal of wrestling, we finally held the dog still long enough to cut the hair in the death-grip of the birds feet and finally took that poor Chickadee back outside to give it the freedom it so rightly deserved.  World record or not, that was one hell of a ride!  After this scene, that could only be described as something from a movie, my mother and I both had to change our pants.  It will live as one of the most cherished memories of my childhood and I think about that rodeo ride every time a Chickadee graces my feeder.

What is your funniest childhood memory?

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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Rather, the light saw me

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I have started this new year feeling better about myself than I have in a very long time, maybe ever.   The scale still hovers around the same number, the grey hairs seem to multiply exponentially while I sleep and the lines around my eyes seem to be getting deeper.  But those lines around my eyes are being etched further into my skin because my smile seems to be a permanent fixture on my face.

I will be the first to admit that I have never spent much time volunteering for anything.  Sure, I jumped on the “pay it forward” bandwagon and I have even blogged about that very phenomenon.  But there is something much more rewarding about really putting in the time to help someone rather than just buying a coffee for the person in line behind you.

What began as helping a friend, who is currently tackling an undiagnosed medical issue, spiraled into a concept that is slowly growing into something I am becoming very passionate about.  It combines two of the things that I hold near to my heart – cooking and being able to help people.

Some of my blogs over the last few weeks have alluded to the Sundays we have spent cooking in the kitchen of the family resort where I am employed.  We have successfully sent almost twenty freezer slow-cooker meals to a young family who lost their home in a fire just after delivering twins, and we are gearing up to do it again this Sunday to add ten more meals to their freezer.  In a few short hours in the span of three Sundays, we have provided a month’s worth of dinners, giving them more time to devote to their children and their next step rather than having to think of what to cook each night.

I also had the pleasure of delivering the first of those meals to my very dear friend on Friday, the friend who inspired this journey.  Just knowing that I can alleviate the tiniest bit of his stress pays me in ways that I never thought possible.  It is a very emotional feeling and, even as I write this, it brings tears to my eyes.

light in your eye

I have watched them before.  I have seen volunteers many times and noticed the light in their eyes but, until now, I had never really understood the source of that light.  I get it now….and it is a light that I would like to have continue shining in my eyes for a very long time.

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Beyond the open door

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On Friday night, I stared at this painting for a long time.  It hangs in a conspicuous spot in a familiar room but I had never seen it before.  Perhaps it was the shaded lighting of the late evening that made me study every detail in those brush strokes or, quite possibly, it was the collection of components in the painting that intrigued me, but every single item on that canvas made me linger and give it thought.

From the cracked tiled floor to the chance assortment of belongings, each item was distinct and gave me the feeling that any one of those things could feasibly represent a chapter in my life story.  That thought made me stare even more as I tried to piece together the narrative that the artist was trying to communicate.

I got a strong sense of the feeling of wanting to stay connected.  There is great comfort in keeping familiar things close.  But there is also the fascination of what may exist beyond our comfort zone.

That open door is the focal point that grabbed and held my attention.  In a room full of things seemingly collected on purpose, this door opened my curiosity.  What magic or what memory lay beyond that partially opened portal?  What is there to be found if we are brave enough to push it open all the way and take a chance on what is on the other side?

Sometimes being complacent with the things we have become accustomed to blinds us to what may lie just beyond the threshold of our comfort zone.  Maybe the memorabilia in the foreground is meant to alleviate any pain while it draws us towards the next step.

There is a warmth in just having things fit into the right place and having that place feel like home. But maybe the real feeling of home is just a few steps away and we just have to walk through that door to discover the hidden treasures that await us if we are brave enough to explore the possibilities.

 

The things that make us laugh the most

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“I do love my toaster oven though.  That’s what you need down there – heat up the meat and then toast your bun.” ~ SN

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That innocuous statement may seem like the least funny line you could ever imagine, confusing even if you have no context of conversation to be able to attach to that simple phrase.  But last night, that innocent message took a turn down an interesting path and led us on a journey of uncontrollable laughter in the wee hours of the morning.

What started as a discussion about a late-night kitchen raid slowly morphed into something much more amusing after I texted the above line.  It seemed to hover in cyberspace, not realizing it was soon to become the cause of a 45 minute fit of muscle spasms and tears of epic comical proportion.

He broke first.  I didn’t initially see the humour in it but, as he texted it back to me over and over and continued to laugh, I could swear I heard the faint echo of his laughter in my head.  Eventually I began to giggle because thinking of him finding such a sincere comment so funny made that comment start to seem funny to me too.  Soon the two of us had fallen over the brink and we, in our separate houses in the darkness of the early morning, laughed like idiots for almost an hour.

My ribs ached, my stomach muscles felt like they had begun to seize and my sleeve was soaked with tears that would not stop staining my cheeks and my pillowcase.  But at the end of suffering through the side effects of our mutual breakdown, I felt wonderful.  That silly string of words had made us both laugh harder than either of us have laughed in years.  It made us temporarily blind to all of the life outside of that moment, allowing us to truly enjoy an escape from reality that will forever be a memory we will both treasure.

Sometimes the things that aren’t funny really do make us laugh the most.  And if you can share that laughter with the right person, for a brief period of time, the rest of the world ceases to exist.

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